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Computer chip inventor dies

Credit cards, passports, Carte Vitale, Navigo travel cards and mobile phones ... all owe their origins to Roland Moreno

THE inventor of the computer chip used on smart cards, Roland Moreno, has died.

He revolutionised shopping, commuting, banking and passports and paved the way for the mobile phone in 1974 with his idea for an electronic data card.

French banks were among the first to recognise the security measures built in to the new computer chip. They quickly incorporated them into the Carte Bleue debit card system - causing mayhem for foreign tourists whose bank cards used magnetic strips.

At the same time France Télécom used the chip for their Télécarte cards for use in pay phones.

Born in Cairo in 1945, Moreno was 29 when he first patented the idea for a miniature circuit board that could hold secure electronic data.

He was a self-taught electonics engineer and came up with all sorts of curious gadgets - but none that had much value. His first thought for the computer chip was that it could be mounted in rings.

He had to defend it against several court challenges but by the time his patent ended in 1994 it had earned him and his company Innovatron nearly €150 million. It will continue earning for his estate until 2017.

It is now a common sight in credit cards and bank cards, travel cards such as Navigo in Paris or Oyster in London, the Carte Vitale health card, new-style passports and ID cards and as the sim chip in mobile phones.

When the security of his chip was challenged in 2000 he immediately offered one million francs if anyone could crack the code - until this day the money has not been claimed.
Photo: nobeastsofierce -

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