Magnetic Stripe Reader

What Does Magnetic Stripe Reader Mean?

A magnetic stripe reader is a device designed to read the information stored within the magnetic stripe of special cards such as credit cards and ATM cards. The magnetic stripe is usually located on the back of the card or badge and contains the account details of the person who owns the card. This information is then verified in real time with the issuer of the card.


Magnetic stripe readers are also known as magstripe readers and credit card readers.

Techopedia Explains Magnetic Stripe Reader

Magnetic stripe readers are a type of data capture device that reads information through contact with a magnetic stripe, which is often part of a card or badge. The idea for the magnetic striped card is accredited to Forrest Parry, an IBM engineer, who simply sticky-taped a strip of magnetic tape onto a piece of cardboard in 1969. In the same year, major development of the technology began at the IBM Information Records Division (IRD) for the magnetic stripe card and the magnetic stripe reader. On February 24, 1971 IBM officially announced the IBM 2730-1 Transaction Validation Terminal and the first Magnetic Credit Card Service Center.

The most logical customers for the product were the government, banks, credit card companies, insurance companies and other organizations which required secure authentication. Each magnetic particle in the magnetic stripe is akin to a bar magnet which is about 20-millionths of an inch wide. Information is stored on the magnetic stripe by polarizing each bar either in a north or south pole orientation with the use of a special magnetic writer, the encoder, in a process called flux reversal which only yields two different states: N-N and S-S. Because of the two states, this is simply a form of binary encoding which can be considered as digital information. The change in the magnetic field, flux reversals, caused by the multiple states of each tiny bar magnet, can be sensed by the magnetic stripe reader and this is how it collects information from cards.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…