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Ron Klein: The Grandfather Of Possibilities

Like most successful inventors, Ron Klein identified a problem, then found a solution. Due to his monumental contribution, more than 609 million credit cards are in existence, with more than 174 million American adults alone owning at least one card. But here's the catch: Klein has never actually made much money off of his patent. So what did he invent? Oh, just the magnetic credit card strip—among several other impressive things. It's why he's often called the "Grandfather of Possibilities."

Magstripes Don't Pay The Bills

When Klein returned from the Korean War, he merely noticed how poorly retail was handling "charge purchases." In the 1960s, credit card companies just kept a super long list of customers with negative account numbers that was referenced during each credit check. That was no good, so Klein used similar technology that was used in reel-to-reel tape recorders to create readable strips on credit cards. With the introduction of Klein's 'magstripes,' all of those negative account numbers were put into a memory system.

The magstripe on the back of your credit card is made up of iron-based magnetic particles in a plastic-like film. The magstripe can be written, much like a cassette tape, because the particles "can be magnetized in either a north or south pole direction." Genius, eh? Although life-changing, Klein insists that the magnetic credit card strip was perhaps the simplest challenge of his life. He also claims that "he never made much money off the patent." A large impact doesn't always translate into a large profit.

Retirement, Shmatirement

But don't feel too sorry for Klein. Sure, maybe he deserved some more recognition for his amazing magstripes, but the energetic inventor had many other inventions that were as profitable as they were revolutionary. To name a few, Klein invented a voice response for the banking industry, a multiple listing service (MLS) for real estate, and even a nutrition system for raising chickens more effectively. After attempting to retire three times (first at age 34), Klein realized that relaxing wasn't in the cards for him. He's still inventing into his 80s, currently working on a device to help the visually impaired.

As for his most famous invention, Klein was bowled over to learn how many credit cards are swiping all across the planet. He told The Huffington Post, "I almost have to be apologetic." It's okay, Ron. We owe you (and our credit card companies) one.

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Written by Curiosity Staff July 5, 2017

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