Roland Moreno (June 11, 1945 – April 29, 2012) was a French inventor, engineer, humorist and author who was the universally accepted inventor of the smart card. Created in 1974, his invention has "Touched almost everyone on the planet" in the words of The Guardian and is now used in identity cards, drivers licenses, passports, oyster cards and SIM cards. Moreno's smart card, or la carte à puce in French, was little known internationally. However, he became a national hero in France and was awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 2009.
Moreno was born in Cairo, Egypt, to Egyptian Jewish parents on June 11, 1945. He attended the Montaigne and Condorcet schools in Paris, but dropped out early, and described his education as "self taught" for the rest of his life. Moreno worked in several smaller jobs after leaving school. He worked as a young reporter for Détective Magazine and a runner for the L'Express news magazine. From 1970 to 1972 Moreno was also an editor at Chimie-Actualités, a French chemistry magazine.
After leaving Chimie-Actualités, Moreno founded his own company, Innovatron, to market ideas and intellectual property. He successfully marketed a software system which merged dictionary words to create new product or brand names for companies. The idea would later be licensed by the Nomen company. Companies which utilized this particular invention included Wanadoo, the Thales Group and Vinci.
The smart chip would prove to be Moreno's most important invention. Moreno claimed to have thought of the smart card concept in a dream, telling France Soir in a 2006 interview, "I came up with the idea in my sleep... To be honest, I'm a lazy bum and my productivity is on the feeble side. I'm jealous, spendthrift, a total couch potato and absent-minded – I've got my real Professor Nimbus side."
His original idea was for a signet ring, or smart ring, embedded with a microchip as shown in his first patent filed on March 25, 1974, when he was just 29-years-old. Moreno modeled the ring on the seal ring used by European nobility with an upside down microchip and external arms to transfer or read information. However, the idea proved both impractical and unpopular during the 1970s. Moreno then simplified the idea, introducing a plastic card with a microchip in 1975. He called it la carte à puce, literally the flea card in English, due to the small chip inserted into the plastic card. Moreno first demonstrated that the smart card could be used in electronic financial transactions in 1976, using a machine which he held together with meccano.
It took approximately eight years for Moreno's smart card to gain widespread use in France due to initial start-up costs. However, the smart proved a huge success in France in the 1980s, where it became widespread long before other countries. In 1983, France Télécom introduced the smart card for use with its Télécarte pay phone payment cards. Nine years later, the French consumer banking industry introduced the Carte Bleue, a national debit card system which used Moreno's smart card, in 1992. The invention was slower to come into widespread use in Britain and the United States: American Express did not introduce the smart card-using Blue Card until 1999 and the London transport system did not issue a smart card encrypted card until the 2000s.
Moreno was very interested in music, broadcasting and writing. He launched Radio Deliro, a now defunct Internet radio station. He was credited as the inventor of several unorthodox electronic devices, including devices called le pianok, calculette, and Pièce-o'matic. His additional inventions included the Matapof, which was able to electronically and numerically simulate the heads or tails game.
Moreno wrote several books, including Théorie du Bordel Ambiant, a collection of his ideas and reflections. He also authored books under the literary pseudonym Laure Dynateur, including a cookbook entitled L'Aide-Mémoire du Nouveau Cordon-bleu with more than 2,000 recipes. Moreno chose this pseudonym because, when pronounced, the name sounds like the French word for computer: l'ordinateur. Moreno also had several small acting and cameo roles in French cinema. He was cast in the 1982 comedic film Les Sous-doués en vacances, directed by Claude Zidi, as a "mad inventor" character who invents a "love computer."
A smart card, chip card, or integrated circuit card (ICC) is any pocket-sized card with embedded integrated circuits. Smart cards are made of plastic, generally polyvinyl chloride, but sometimes polyethylene terephthalate based polyesters, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene or polycarbonate. Since April 2009, a Japanese company has manufactured reusable financial smart cards made from paper.
Smart cards can provide identity documentation, authentication, data storage, and application processing. Smart cards may provide strong security authentication for single sign-on (SSO) within large organizations.
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