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14. The Golden Links

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

What was the scenery of this beautiful universe which we inhabit;
what were our consolations on this side of the grave—and what were
our aspirations beyond it, if poetry did not ascend to bring light and
fire from those eternal regions where the owl-winged faculty of calculation
dare not ever soar.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley

As NBI struggled with duality, communications systems, marketing, security, and other major efforts required to turn the BankAmericard system around in the United States, the Bank of America Service Corporation continued to license banks in the remainder of the world. Each license was different, leading to a morass of different marketing, computer systems, operations, and names.The blue, white, and gold card known as BankAmericard in the United States was known as Sumitomo Card in Japan, Barclaycard in the United Kingdom, Chargex in Canada, Bancomer in Mexico, and a multitude of other names in different countries. The situation quickly led to even greater and more complex problems than those experienced earlier in the United States, partially due to the diversity of language, currency, culture, and legal systems.

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17. The Successful Business Failure

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and
unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks
out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not
without dust and heat... that which purifies us is trial, and trial is
by what is contrary.

—John Milton

It is painful to think about weakness and failure. It is even more painful to write about it, but it is an essential part of the story.

At times our failures were highly visible. I have already written about one in Chapter Thirteen, the fight to prevent duality. Another of the more visible was immense. After a number of early successes in building an electronic system for authorization, BASE 1, and another for clearing transactions, BASE 2, we were approached by several members who professed to have common needs (mistake one, they did not), asking if we would undertake the creation of cardholder and merchant-processing software for member banks to use, BASE 3.

By pooling money and effort, it was thought that much more sophisticated software could be developed at reduced cost. The members having immediate need would underwrite development of the product. It would then be available to all other members who would, if they elected to use it, pay a proportionate share of the development cost, to be distributed back to the initial funders.

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7. Peeling the Onion

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

To be free is precisely the same thing as to be pious, wise, just and temperate,
careful of one’s own, abstinent from what is another’s and
thence, magnanimous and brave... To be an opposite of these is the
same thing as to be a slave ... So it comes to pass that the nation
which has been incapable of governing and ordering itself and has
delivered itself up to the slavery of its own lusts is itself delivered
against its will to other masters, and whether it will or not, is compelled to serve.

—John Milton

There was no time for the new licensee committee to do more than get acquainted and agree to meet two weeks hence. On the flight home, Jim Cronkhite and I ripped a map of the United States from the airline magazine and began dividing the country into sections, minds buzzing with a multitude of questions. What might best define areas of operational, political, cultural, and banking interests? What might provide equitable balance of number of licensees and volume of BankAmericard business? What might keep travel time and costs to a minimum? What might include a healthy mix of differing interests, yet not be so diverse as to make agreement impossible?

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2. A Lamb and the Lion of Life

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The striking of a match is every bit as wonderful as the working of a
brain; the union of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen in a
molecule of water is every bit as wonderful as the growth of a child.
Nature does not class her works in order of merit; everything is just
as easy to her as everything else: she puts her whole mind into all that
she does ... [she] lives through all life, extends through all extent,
spreads undivided, operates unspent.

—Stephen Paget

It is 1934, and I am five years old, wild with excitement, trotting back and forth, peering around overall-clad legs bulging with muscle as neighbors with crowbars strain alongside my father to move the frame cottage a quarter mile down the cement highway, on rollers made of old telephone poles, to an acre of land purchased from a neighboring farmer. With the cottage on site and a man on either end of a ten-foot crosscut saw, the poles are soon bucked into short sections. They are buried on end under the jacked-up house, which is slowly lowered, creaking as it comes to rest a foot above the ground on the wooden foundation.

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15. What’s in a Name?

Hock, Dee Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Either the Stars are great geometers or the eternal geometer has
arranged the stars.

—Voltaire

It was perfect—perfect in its beauty—and perfect because, from the
sun in the heavens to the fly with burnished wings on the hot rock,
there was nothing out of harmony.

—Mark Rutherford

In 1973, it became apparent that continuing proliferation of names for the card could hinder growth of the system. At the time, the only common worldwide identity was the blue-white-gold bands design. The product had a different name in every country and in some countries, several names. In the United States, the common name was BankAmericard. In Canada, Chargex. In the remainder of the world, it was usually known by the name of the issuer, such as Sumitomocard in Japan, or Barclaycard in the United Kingdom. Once the card had been introduced in the name of one bank, others were reluctant to join.The multitude of names was confusing to merchants, seriously undermining card acceptance. Ability to conduct international marketing and ensure acceptability of cards was severely limited.

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