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The Early Days of Desktop MICR
Check Printing, the 1980ís

In the eighties desktop MICR printing was only available from a few companies.  The companies were Troy, Acom, Digital Design, Accuprint and Westcorp Software Systems.  Of course Xerox had large high speed MICR printers, but they did not see desktop MICR printing as a very large opportunity.

Troy sold an 8 page per minute Ricoh engine printer, on-site service and supplies.  They were very successful with this MICR solution.  The printer cost over $6,000 and on-site service cost between $60 and $100 per month.  Troy was definitely a pioneer in the desktop MICR market.  The printers could all be locked with a key and secured with a font card or cartridge.

Acom also teamed with the Ricoh engine printer for their MICR solution in the eighties.  Just like Troy and most of the others it was a hardware driven product.  They had unique controllers to hook up to midrange computers in order to print the MICR checks and forms.  They had success with the IBMís AS400 users across the country had success enabling the users to print checks directly from their midrange computer to the MICR printers.  As with Troy, the printers could all be locked with a key and secured with a font card or cartridge.

Accuprint was also offering a printer driven solutions, meaning there was not software to buy.  They had proprietary boards that they made securing the fonts and the check forms.

The first three companies were all based in Southern California. Where else would this desktop MICR revolution started?  The next and last two companies that offered MICR check printing on desktop laser printer hailed from the east. 

>Digital Designs, out of Jacksonville Florida, was the next company with one of the best sales organizations around. Digital Designs had a very large installation base of MICR printers.  They also had a Ricoh engine MICR printer, very similar to the companies from California. I remember them being very large when it came to their sales organization.  They were out to get the Fortune 1000 companies installed for distributed MICR printing, and had huge success.

In 1989, Westcorp Software Systems introduced the ability to print checks on a off the shelf Hewlett Packard LaserJet II printer.  The HP LaserJet II sold for $2,500 at the time and was rated at printing 8 pages per minute.  All you needed to do was buy their check printing software package that included software, a MICR Font Cartridge and a MICR toner cartridge.  Initially they sold their software for $500 and a click charge per check.  The click charge initially was $.15 then quickly lowered to $.05 per check.  The click charge was tracked buy a device that attached to the PC driving the software.  It was made by Rainbow Technologies and was critical in the counting of the clicks and not attached to the PC, the check printing software would not run.  This protected Westcorp Software from being copied for unlawful use.  The AS 400 users were not drawn to this solution as it required IBMís PC support, which was a very expensive product and required an extra step for printing checks.

Westcorp soon started selling their solution and got rid of their click charges.  They sold systems for $6,900 that included everything the customer needed excluding the HP LaserJet II printer.  This is when sales started to grow and installation became more prolific.

That was the early days of desktop MICR printing.  In the 1990ís all of the above companies grew and a host of competitorís and products were introduced.  As we enter the first months of 2006, tens of thousands of companies are printing their own checks on HP laser printers sold for less than $200.  We will see what the next 18 years bring us.

January 19, 2006
MICR Article written by John Miller, Advantage Laser Products, Inc.