There are millions of international prepaid calling cards
being sold and used everyday. You may be wondering how it all began.
Although international prepaid calling cards have become a powerhouse technological
system generating billions of dollars, you might be surprised to know that it
was first developed three decades ago. The history of prepaid calling cards
is as interesting and amusing as other modern invention stories that you may
have heard before. The cards were originally made in Europe then reached America after
a decade. Today, almost every nation in the world has a variety of
international prepaid calling cards available.
In 1975 SIDA, a producer and distributor of vending machines in Italy began
experimenting with the idea of making calling cards. The idea was to replace
coins being used for payphones since medal coins were in shortage and theft
and vandalism was rampant. The first batch of made prepaid calling cards were
released into the market in 1976.
These were very slim cards from cardboards and got stuck on more than one
occasion. They operated via a magnetic strip at the back of the card that can
be scanned by new special phones upon insertion of the card. The idea of paying
per minute was already incorporated in this pioneer batch.
In 1977, the popularity of the new prepaid calling cards rose after one year
and nearby countries in Europe like Sweden,
France, the United Kingdom and Austria also started using the
system and manufacturing cards. The magnetic strip validation was the key
trait of the cards. A year later, Nelson G. Bardini from Brazil used
inductive technology to improve international prepaid calling cards. There
are sequences of coils that identified how much is used up in the card.
The new cards using inductive technology was presented at the national
inventors’ exhibition in 1982. Japan also began manufacturing
prepaid calling cards which sold several thousands daily. The Nippon
Telephone and Telegraph company was the first in Japan to adapt to the new system.
In 1984, France
developed the technology by using chip-based “smart cards”.
Three years later, World Telecom Group, Siemens and General Electric
manufactured magstripe cards which contained information. This is the same
technology used by credit cards today. In 1988, the first catalogue of
telecards was released in England
by Dr. Steve His*censored*s. In 1989, AT&T invested in the system as well
producing several thousands of cards daily.
In 1990, the non-magstripe calling card was made by Regional Bell Operating
Company in New York
which involved dialing a toll-free access number. The caller would then input
the Personal Identification Number or PIN. This new system started the rise
of international prepaid calling cards since it was very versatile and
allowed access to any phone in the world. By 1995, over six hundred million
dollars in sales were made from international prepaid calling cards.
Sales continued to soar well into the 21st century counting in the billions.
The system replaced most collect call systems and coin payphones and
continued to develop with other gadgets as well like cellular phones and the
internet. With its continuous success, international prepaid calling cards
are definitely here to stay.
Vanessa Arellano Doctor