Today, bank check processing equipment around the world use MICR toner ink to recognize, read and validate checks. Banking equipment is standardized to recognize the magnetic MICR ink and its special characters, allowing for fast, secure check processing. This standardized system is an essential part of today’s banking industry, but the MICR technology it relies on is relatively new.
The Invention of MICR Toner
In the mid to late 1950s, as US commerce and population grew, the need for faster, more standardized data processing at US banks put pressure on the banking industry to invent a way to standardize and mechanize check processing. Up until that time, checks were read and processed by hand, making check processing slower, more costly and more prone to human error and fraud.
In the mid 1950s, US banks, bankers, manufacturers and check processors formed a committee to investigate new methods of check processing and validation. The committee resulted in the American Banker’s Association (ABA). Dr. Kenneth Eldredge of the Stanford Research Institute presented the newly invented magnetic MICR ink technology to the committee, which decided that MICR ink presented the best solution for mechanized check processing.
MICR Characters and Standardization of Check Printing
The ABA commissioned Batelle Memorial Institute to conduct a council on its behalf to determine which fonts would be used in MICR check printing. Fifty industry specialists, mostly check printers, participated in the council, which decided to adopt a standardized font known as E-13A MICR. During its early testing stages, it was found that some banking machines had difficulty distinguishing the number 8 from the symbol for transit, so the E-13A MICR font standard was altered, and the E-13B MICR font system was adopted instead.
In 1959, the E-13B MICR font and technology system was accepted by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which published the standards for MICR printing. MICR technology was implemented throughout the banking and check printing industries, and the same technology is used by check printers and bank processing machines today. Detailed specifications for MICR E-13B font printing are available from the ANSI; these specifications detail standards for the formation of MICR characters as well as line placements and other check components.
MICR Toner and Worldwide Check Printing Standards
While it was the American Banker’s Association that instituted the use of MICR technology and E-13B MICR fonts, the MICR system is used as a standard by the banking industry worldwide. E-13B MICR font standards are accepted by Most of Northern America and some countries in Europe, including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, India, Mexico, Columbia and Turkey. CMC-7 is a different set of standardized fonts used for MICR check printing. These characters are used by Spain, France, Israel, most of South America and many Mediterranean countries.