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Monday, June 20, 2016

Straddling the Great Digital Divide

What I love most about being a true blue Gen X'er is our passage from analog to digital. There's something comforting in the shared experience of taking a flying leap together across a great technological chasm. From Etch-A-Sketch to iPad, from wall-tethered telephones to iPhones. Technology moved fast during our lifetime. We climbed the mountain, we surfed the wave, we sped along the information superhighway with all the windows open. We optimized for mobile like champs. Ours was a triumphant, graceful grand jete across the great digital divide.

So imagine my horror when I presented as a fumble-fingered old lady at CVS in front of the young pharmacy clerk. Mortified. The girl could hardly hide her snicker as I attempted to pay with my debit card. Seems I don't quite have the hang of the new "chip card" yet. First I tried to swipe my card, then I stuck it into the slot backwards, then I took it out of the slot too soon. I found myself in defense mode, babbling about Gen X and straddling the great digital divide. Finally I managed to pay the girl. Used my iPhone to summon an Uber ride home just to reassure myself about my friendly, fearless relationship with modern tech.

Did you get your chip card yet? If not, allow me to explain why your magnetic stripe cards have become quite obsolete. I looked it up.

We don't "swipe" at the register anymore. We "dip." You have to insert (you know what, I am never going to say "dip," I'm sorry) the chip-end of the card into the base of the payment device, keep it in there for about a week (it isn't fast like swiping) and then you can enter your PIN and proceed as before. 

The chip card is the rare tech that was not designed for consumer convenience, hence its slowness. What you've got there, chief, is a tiny little microprocessor for security. Unlike our old magnetic stripes, which use the same digital cardholder ID for every transaction, the chip generates a new number every time you use it. The stripes were easier prey for card fraudsters who could easily copy the stripe once and use it until you caught on and cancelled your card. The chip is secure like the vault codes in a Vegas casino. They keep changing. It's the same microprocessor built into the new "mobile wallet" on smart phones.

It's because of rampant card fraud thievery, that's why. Damn criminals. This is why we can't have nice things.

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