In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Brian Roemmele started “black boxing” Verifone ZON devices. “They were like little computers,” he says. He rigged the devices to do different things for merchants. For an auto parts store, he used his modified devices to take inventory. For another store, he was able to make a simple alarm system. He compounded these features and, within a relatively short amount of time, amassed thousands of clients. And this was an age where credit card processing wasn’t seen as a necessity.
“I couldn’t convince a restaurant at the airport that they needed to have a way to process credit cards,” he explains. Back then, it seemed more necessary to have “check guarantee,” a feature he added to the device that would allow a customer to enter their ID and check information, and if their check bounced, a company would cover the payment to the merchant and then track down the customer for payment plus interest.