Wednesday 29 June 2011

semaphore or wonka-vision

A few days ago, the Universal Aggregator Mashable (via the equally swank Neat-o-Rama) celebrated the anniversary of the Universal Product Code--UPC or barcode (Strichcode). In June of 1974, the first commercial product sold to bear the mark was a pack of chewing-gun. It was pretty keen to read the history and development from inventory management, proof-of-purchase, identity verification, to access- and movement-control of the first configuration, arrangement that was legible to machines, blurring for the first time the border between the electronic and physical worlds.
I thought about this milestone again when challenged with a new gadget from the bank: on-line banking is very prevalent in Germany as well but there is an extra level of security attached to every transaction. Customers were issued by post a TAN list (Transaktionsnummer) with a unique series of numbers to accompany a wire-transfer to be entered by the sender. I like this second-verification process though that meant banking was usually done from home where the TAN list was, and I thought there was nothing wrong with receiving a list by mail. The banks in Germany, however, have replaced the list with a new TAN generator, a little calculator that reads the chip on one's bank card. The bank's website directed me to use the machine last time I signed in order to disassociate my account with the paper list of numbers

I thought at first the pulsing bars on the screen were just decorative, but the little machine is also equipped to read this signal-- sort of bar-code like those two-dimensional fingerprints on tickets--and couples all the details of the transaction together. That was pretty keen but maybe a bit too much concentrated and acquainted, befriended information. Maybe there's an unseen element of theatre to it all and maybe we have become too reliant on and accepting of such a branding because nothing is really digitized or beamed away yet there is no arguing with coding.