Zoom March 2012

Some of the first written records of “credit” (on grain and silver) come from ancient Sumer civilization (modern-day Iraq), most famously on the Hammurabi Stele, which is about 3,700 years old. While gas station and air travel credit cards showed up earlier, Diners Club, first issued in 1950, is considered the world’s first credit card in the modern sense. For an annual fee of $5 you got a cardboard card with your name and code number on the front and a list of 28 Manhattan restaurants/nightspots where it was accepted on the back. In the same decade, Diners Club went national, Visa, MasterCard and American Express were established, and the idea of “charging” an item on a credit card became prevalent. The composition of credit cards has changed over the years, ranging from the cardboard to celluloid plastic, and metal and fiber. Today’s cards are usually polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. And new technology has been gradually integrated into the instrument. At first, noting the numerical code or making an impression of the raised numbers on a card was necessary to record a transaction, but with the invention of magnetic stripes, cards can be read with a swipe. Currently, “smart cards” contain an embedded microchip that contains and conveys pertinent transaction information.

michael isenbek

Michael Isenbek, Associate Editor, dabbles in both fiction and nonfiction writing, coordinates the Pulse event listings and writes the text for "Zoom," among other editorial tasks. He has a Master's Degree in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Journalism from SUNY Empire State College.