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Icons of Progress

Magnetic Stripe Technology

No product, idea, or achievement is possible without our most critical asset—the collective thought capital of hundreds of thousands of IBMers. The expertise, technical skill, willingness to take risk, and overall dedication of IBM employees have led to countless transformative innovations through the years. Meet team members who contributed to this Icon of Progress.

  • Forrest Parry 

    A native of Cedar City, Utah, Forrest Parry was born on July 4, 1915. He attended the Branch Agricultural College and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. During the Korean War, Parry served in the Navy as first lieutenant aboard the USS Walke. In 1951, the ship was either hit by a torpedo or struck a mine, killing 26 sailors and wounding 40. Parry’s conduct during the incident earned him the Navy’s Bronze Star with Valor. After the war, Parry worked at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, beginning his illustrious career with IBM in 1957. Early on, he helped develop the Universal Product Code (UPC), high-speed printing systems and an advanced optical character reader. However, it was Parry’s invention of the magnetic stripe that would establish him as one of IBM’s great innovators.

  • Jerome Svigals 

    Jerome Svigals
    “Our motive was to come up with solutions that basically increased the use of computers and mag stripe was a beauty. It really worked like a charm.”

    Born in 1926 in the Bronx, New York, Jerome Svigals attended City College of New York. In 1950, as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he worked on developing the first electronic computer, becoming one of the world’s first digital programmers. Starting with IBM in 1954, Svigals was the company’s first employee hired for marketing the professional computer. He devised the strategy of selling computer support services and eventually ran IBM’s global marketing system. In the mid-1960s, he conducted initial research on a machine-readable storage medium and became project manager for magnetic stripe cards. Regarded as the “father of mag-stripe cards,” Svigals brought the technology to the air transport, mass transit and banking industries. Thereafter he became the key figure in establishing national and global standards for magnetic stripe data storage. He has authored 25 books on card technology and banking, and is a leading consultant to the financial industry.

  • Marcel Vogel 

    Marcel Vogel
    “He made his mark because of the brilliance of his mind, his prolific ideas, and his seemingly limitless creativity.” – eulogy by Dr. Bernard McGinty, Marcel Vogel’s funeral, February 14, 1991.

    Born in San Francisco in 1917, Marcel Vogel attended the University of San Francisco. Before joining IBM in 1957, Vogel was an established expert in the fields of magnetics, chemistry and luminescence—light occurring in low temperature. In 1943, he co-wrote Luminescence in Liquids and Solids and Their Practical Application, and soon launched his own technology company, Vogel Luminescence. He pioneered black-light technology, spawning the development of several identification and tagging products, as well as the widely popular and iconic black light of the 1960s. He also created phosphorescent paints, chalk and crayons. After selling his company, Vogel joined IBM as a research scientist at the Advanced Systems Development Division lab in San Jose, California. He greatly refined Parry’s initial magnetic stripe work by eliminating the use of Mylar tape. After 27 years of service and 32 patents, the unconventional scientist retired from IBM and focused on human-plant communication.