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Old 01-03-2017, 11:44 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Seventies-looking digits on checks

F, G and H here: http://www.promisechecks.com/line.aspx?lineid=111

Why, in this day and age, are the numbers along the lower left edge of checks still that quaint-looking Seventies computer font? I'd have thought it would've been updated to something like, I dunno, Helvetica by now.
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Old 01-03-2017, 11:54 PM
RadicalPi RadicalPi is offline
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These numbers are printed in magnetic ink, so that machines can read them with a high degree of accuracy. The numbers have those quaint shapes, as you call them, increase the distinctiveness of each of the characters. The font is called E-13B. It first appeared on checks in the late 1950s.

Last edited by RadicalPi; 01-03-2017 at 11:55 PM.
  #3  
Old 01-03-2017, 11:55 PM
Pork Rind Pork Rind is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
F, G and H here: http://www.promisechecks.com/line.aspx?lineid=111

Why, in this day and age, are the numbers along the lower left edge of checks still that quaint-looking Seventies computer font? I'd have thought it would've been updated to something like, I dunno, Helvetica by now.
MICR: magnetic ink character recognition. The routing and account numbers printed in that typeface are scanned by the processing machines automatically. The interesting bit is that they are not read optically, but as the name implies, each digit has a specific magnetic value. That's why the funny shapes and blobs, it's to give each numeral it's own specific volume of ink that can then be associated with the correct number by the scanner.
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Old 01-04-2017, 12:17 AM
friedo friedo is offline
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Although they're still printed with magnetic ink, I think the vast majority of MICR scanners now work optically. So it's just a matter of technological inertia, for the most part.
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Old 01-04-2017, 12:18 AM
Lord Feldon Lord Feldon is offline
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Originally Posted by Pork Rind View Post
The interesting bit is that they are not read optically, but as the name implies, each digit has a specific magnetic value.
They do it optically too. They have to be able to, otherwise they'd still need you to hand over the actual piece of paper to deposit a check into your account.

Last edited by Lord Feldon; 01-04-2017 at 12:21 AM.
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Old 01-04-2017, 01:40 AM
guizot guizot is offline
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Why do you call those "seventies-looking" fonts? To me they just look like "check" fonts.
  #7  
Old 01-04-2017, 01:57 AM
Robot Arm Robot Arm is online now
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Why do you call those "seventies-looking" fonts? To me they just look like "check" fonts.
Oh, in the '70s that font had a certain futuristic, computerized vibe to it.* In the original Rollerball the numbers on the players' jerseys were done in that font. Although now that I take a closer look, they're not quite the same.


* I probably should have phrased that the other way around. Different eras have different visions of what the future will look like. In the '70s there was a view of the future that included things like computer-readable fonts.
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Old 01-04-2017, 05:02 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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I couldn't find a cheque book to confirm it, but I think ours are identical. It is quite probably that there is an international standard so that would be very difficult to change, especially where there is no good reason to.
  #9  
Old 01-04-2017, 05:46 AM
panache45 panache45 is online now
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
I'd have thought it would've been updated to something like, I dunno, Helvetica by now.
Helvetica is actually older, designed in 1957.
  #10  
Old 01-04-2017, 05:53 AM
scr4 scr4 is offline
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I would think the properties that make it easily distinguishable with a magnetic scanner will also make it easier to distinguish using optical character recognition.
  #11  
Old 01-04-2017, 06:20 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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Seventies-looking digits on checks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robot Arm View Post
Oh, in the '70s that font had a certain futuristic, computerized vibe to it.



...
* I probably should have phrased that the other way around. Different eras have different visions of what the future will look like. In the '70s there was a view of the future that included things like computer-readable fonts.


Indeed. The lead-in for the CBC's flagship news program used that font, coupled with a computery "boopity-boop" sound effect:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CE6_9Bn7ID0

Last edited by Northern Piper; 01-04-2017 at 06:21 AM.
  #12  
Old 01-04-2017, 06:26 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
F, G and H here: http://www.promisechecks.com/line.aspx?lineid=111

Why, in this day and age, are the numbers along the lower left edge of checks still that quaint-looking Seventies computer font? I'd have thought it would've been updated to something like, I dunno, Helvetica by now.
So update it from a 70s font to a 50s font?

(actually, they're both 50s fonts)
  #13  
Old 01-04-2017, 06:30 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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I would think the properties that make it easily distinguishable with a magnetic scanner will also make it easier to distinguish using optical character recognition.
I'm sure it would, but OCR has its own 'default' font:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OCR-A

(it's a moot point now - modern OCR is capable of reading just about anything, including handwriting)
  #14  
Old 01-04-2017, 06:31 AM
Heracles Heracles is offline
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And let's not forget Space:1999 (designed around 1975).
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Old 01-04-2017, 06:58 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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And let's not forget Space:1999 (designed around 1975).
That appears to be using a font called Westminster, which is an offshoot of MICR, with alpha characters included (MICR only had numbers and a few symbols).
  #16  
Old 01-04-2017, 07:12 AM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
F, G and H here: http://www.promisechecks.com/line.aspx?lineid=111

Why, in this day and age, are the numbers along the lower left edge of checks still that quaint-looking Seventies computer font? I'd have thought it would've been updated to something like, I dunno, Helvetica by now.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
So update it from a 70s font to a 50s font?

(actually, they're both 50s fonts)
Ahhh, they're 1950's-style "debt pays".
  #17  
Old 01-04-2017, 07:17 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is offline
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You, sir, should be taken behind the barn and tickled mercilessly with goose feathers!

  #18  
Old 01-04-2017, 07:50 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
Why, in this day and age, are the numbers along the lower left edge of checks still that quaint-looking Seventies computer font?
If it ain't broke, why fix it?
  #19  
Old 01-04-2017, 07:56 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Thanks, all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robot Arm View Post
...In the original Rollerball the numbers on the players' jerseys were done in that font. Although now that I take a closer look, they're not quite the same....
Yes! I remember that now.
  #20  
Old 01-04-2017, 07:56 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Modern OCR can usually read almost everything. But the occasional errors still creep in. And when even a single error could mean misplacing a very large amount of money, with possibly an even larger amount needed to fix it, you want to get that error rate down as low as you possibly can. And if that means writing numbers using a barcode that's disguised as a font, then that's what you do.
  #21  
Old 01-04-2017, 08:00 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Just found this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnet...er_recognition
  #22  
Old 01-04-2017, 08:20 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Ahhh, they're 1950's-style "debt pays".
Nice.
  #23  
Old 01-04-2017, 09:24 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is offline
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They do it optically too. They have to be able to, otherwise they'd still need you to hand over the actual piece of paper to deposit a check into your account.
When I was a kid/teen, one of the 'crap jobs' pilots would take in order to build hours was 'bank pilot'. They'd load their planes with bags of checks in the middle of the night, and fly them to where they would be processed. Sometimes I wonder if there are any of those flights left, or when they stopped making them.
  #24  
Old 01-04-2017, 09:28 AM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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Back in the day, kids, checks were self-standing financial instruments that had to have a set of specific characteristics to be valid in their chain of transfer from the gas station in Montana to your account in Nashville. There was essentially no way to validate funds or accounts except by adhering to these standards (and checking ID of the issuer). If a check didn't have all the components (from memory: date of issue, payee, PAY TO [THE ORDER OF] instruction, numeric amount, legal/written-out amount, issuer signature, account number... and for nearly all recipients, the MICR encoding of routing number and account number at the bottom), it was not a valid "check" and could be refused by any link in the chain from the receiving merchant or bank to the Fed to the other Fed to the issuing bank.

These days, they're wastepaper, a note to tell the electronic system to move this much money from here to there, validated on many levels other than the instrument itself. I expect they'll disappear completely in another decade, except possibly for some business transfers.
  #25  
Old 01-04-2017, 12:39 PM
cwthree cwthree is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
When I was a kid/teen, one of the 'crap jobs' pilots would take in order to build hours was 'bank pilot'. They'd load their planes with bags of checks in the middle of the night, and fly them to where they would be processed. Sometimes I wonder if there are any of those flights left, or when they stopped making them.
There aren't nearly as many such flights as there used to be. Loss of an important opportunity to accumulate flight hours is a significant, and completely unintended, consequence of changes in banking practices.

Cite: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=1482387
  #26  
Old 01-04-2017, 02:57 PM
mikecurtis mikecurtis is offline
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cecil alredy answered
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2713/why-do-banks-use-that-awful-robotic-looking-type-font-for-routing-and-account-numbers[/URL]
  #27  
Old 01-04-2017, 04:56 PM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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I expect they'll disappear completely in another decade, except possibly for some business transfers.
They already did in most modern economies. I used two in 2015 and received none.
  #28  
Old 01-04-2017, 11:41 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Originally Posted by mikecurtis View Post
cecil alredy answered
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2713/why-do-banks-use-that-awful-robotic-looking-type-font-for-routing-and-account-numbers[/URL]
Thanks - I don't think I ever read that before. Link fixed: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...ccount-numbers
  #29  
Old 01-05-2017, 01:26 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
When I was a kid/teen, one of the 'crap jobs' pilots would take in order to build hours was 'bank pilot'. They'd load their planes with bags of checks in the middle of the night, and fly them to where they would be processed. Sometimes I wonder if there are any of those flights left, or when they stopped making them.
In the Norwest (now Wells Fargo) system, they disappeared when minicomputer or PC prices came down enough that outstate local banks began to have one at the local branch. One of the tasks shifted to local banks was the data entry of the information from the checks deposited there (onto 8" floppy disks).

At first they just continued to send couriers/pilots to to deliver the checks, but now with disks also. At the central processing center, they got the data from the disks; the actual checks were just backup for days when the disks were unreadable.

But fairly soon technology improved so that the disks were reliably readable, and soon after that data communication (dial-up transmission) began replacing the physical transportation of these disks. The actual checks still had to be transported, but only needed to arrive by the end of the month when they were sorted and included when the monthly bank statement was mailed to the customer. And that began to end about 1984, when the US Check-21 act allowed banks to switch to digital copies of the checks, without retaining & transporting the actual physical checks.
  #30  
Old 01-05-2017, 02:43 AM
Alley Dweller Alley Dweller is offline
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Originally Posted by t-bonham@scc.net View Post
And that began to end about 1984, when the US Check-21 act allowed banks to switch to digital copies of the checks, without retaining & transporting the actual physical checks.
1984? The Check-21 Act wasn't passed until 2003. Maybe you meant to say 2004?
  #31  
Old 01-05-2017, 03:30 AM
TSBG TSBG is offline
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That appears to be using a font called Westminster, which is an offshoot of MICR, with alpha characters included (MICR only had numbers and a few symbols).
There's another font like this that quick googling didn't turn up--bear with me, but:

There used to be a machine called a Chyron that generated text on a video screen. Until the early 90s this was how networks like CBS superimposed the words "Eagles 20-Giants 17" or what have you.

The machine was invented to throw text on screen for educational purposes and was named after Chiron, the legendary centaur teacher. That's interesting but not relevant.

There was a font in the Chyron I worked with called something like "Computer 90" (not Westminster) which was basically the check font. It was kind of weird that we had the option at all because the machine was so limited, but I used the font now and then for a goof (I was at Comedy Central then).

The Chyron machine was quickly overwhelmed in my professional experience by what amounted to the computer revolution--newer machines did the job better and faster. But you still hear people--well, maybe people of my generation--referring to text on screen as a "Chyron."

Anyway, in the early 90s something like check font was already a joke.
  #32  
Old 01-05-2017, 09:17 AM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Originally Posted by bob++ View Post
They already did in most modern economies. I used two in 2015 and received none.
Due to two different companies choosing to do things "old school", my paychecks have been actual, physical checks since late 2011.

In the first case, I'm pretty sure that my old employer chose to enjoy the little bit of extra interest he'd get from the float (i.e., the time between cutting a check, and it being deposited). In the second case, it's likely due to the hassles of trying to arrange direct deposit for freelancers, many of whom are only briefly employed.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 01-05-2017 at 09:18 AM.
  #33  
Old 01-05-2017, 11:01 AM
leahcim leahcim is offline
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At first they just continued to send couriers/pilots to to deliver the checks, but now with disks also. At the central processing center, they got the data from the disks; the actual checks were just backup for days when the disks were unreadable.
One of the first companies I worked for had as its major early product a system for routing vehicles for cheque delivery. The requirement that the physical cheque make it back to its originating bank was a legal one long after the technical requirement was obsolete, resulting in this ridiculous high-tech solution to optimally do this primitive thing.
  #34  
Old 01-05-2017, 12:16 PM
JohnGalt JohnGalt is online now
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Although not digits, the computer-looking font (Data 70) on the Rochester Minnesota city flag now looks old-fashioned. When the flag was designed in 1980, it had a picture of the Mayo Clinic with some Giant Canada Geese, and the font was to represent the other major employer in town, IBM. There was a discussion about the need for a make-over, focusing precisely on the font.
  #35  
Old 01-05-2017, 01:58 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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They already did in most modern economies. I used two in 2015 and received none.
Emphasis on "completely," as in, banks won't let most customers use them.
  #36  
Old 01-06-2017, 08:33 AM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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I knew I recalled a book that used that kind of font on the cover - and if the one I was thinking of wasn't "The Adolescence of P1," that book's cover https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adolescence.../dp/0020248806 will do until I remember another one.
  #37  
Old 01-06-2017, 11:51 AM
Atamasama Atamasama is offline
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Originally Posted by JohnGalt View Post
Although not digits, the computer-looking font (Data 70) on the Rochester Minnesota city flag now looks old-fashioned. When the flag was designed in 1980, it had a picture of the Mayo Clinic with some Giant Canada Geese, and the font was to represent the other major employer in town, IBM. There was a discussion about the need for a make-over, focusing precisely on the font.
At first glance that's a pretty lame flag. Not just the font but everything.

Reading the explanation below about the symbolism of each element of the flag, though, it's actually pretty cool. A lot of thought went into it. In particular that font really invokes "IBM" to me.
  #38  
Old 01-06-2017, 12:37 PM
yabob yabob is online now
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At first glance that's a pretty lame flag. Not just the font but everything.

Reading the explanation below about the symbolism of each element of the flag, though, it's actually pretty cool. A lot of thought went into it. In particular that font really invokes "IBM" to me.
Whatever font it's in, it's disobeying one of the supposed "rules" of flag design by having printing on it all. Actually, they're more like "guidelines", and sometimes you can break the rules and get away with it:

http://ideas.ted.com/7-fantastic-fla...y-design-rule/

I don't think that's one of those cases, though.
  #39  
Old 01-06-2017, 02:37 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I dunno, I'm no big fan of writing on flags, either, but I think that by the time you get down to city flags (and not even particularly big cities, at that), you have to make some allowances.

And yes, a bear physically splitting an atom with its claws is awesome enough to justify any rules violations.
  #40  
Old 01-06-2017, 03:14 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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And yes, a bear physically splitting an atom with its claws is awesome enough to justify any rules violations.
The look on the bear's face as he's obviously ripping apart the atom with his bare (bear?) hands is pretty freakin' great, but I'm partial to a bear casually toting an artillery shell, how much more metal than that can you get?
  #41  
Old 01-06-2017, 03:21 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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I've always liked the logo of Homer Simpson's union: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3769/1...16f5c78b_z.jpg
  #42  
Old 01-06-2017, 05:12 PM
GargoyleWB GargoyleWB is offline
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They already did in most modern economies. I used two in 2015 and received none.
I still do probably hundreds every year. For nearly all of my billers (utilities, doctors, etc) I pay online through my bank, but the bank still kicks out a physical check that gets mailed to the payee. Direct electronic billing still has a long way to go to get adopted.
  #43  
Old 01-07-2017, 09:35 AM
doreen doreen is offline
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They already did in most modern economies. I used two in 2015 and received none.
I don't write many checks either - but banking in the US will have to change a lot before checks can be completely eliminated. Let's see when I use checks-

1) For transactions with individual people- a birthday or wedding gift, or to pay my share of a group purchase. Sometimes cash works just as well, but I'm not going to mail cash or put an envelope with a few hundred dollars in cash into a box at a wedding. There are things like pop money that can get around this- but they have fees. And good luck getting my 76 year old mother to understand that I can send her money via email.

2) to pay bills sent to me from entities that don't accept credit/debit cards. For example, if my doctor's office forgets to collect my copay and sends me a bill for $20. They don't take credit/debit cards because it's not worth it to pay the fees for such a small average transaction so it's mail a check or pay by check (which means an extra trip because I don't mail cash)


Another situation where checks are used is to pay wages- sure, I can (and do ) have direct deposit. But lots of people in the US don't have bank accounts and although there are payroll debit cards , they often have fees. In my state, to avoid employees essentially being paid less due to fees, there are regulations effective in March 2017* for paying by debit card which make paying by check much less of a hassle ( and probably less expensive to employers)





* Some of the requirements
Employees must :

- have access to at least one (1) fee-less ATM within a reasonable travel distance from where the employees work or live;
-have access to unlimited withdrawals from a fee-less ATM; and
-not incur fees for: checking their balance; maintenance; account inactivity; overdraft; contacting customer service; receiving written statements or transaction histories; closing an account; card replacement (at reasonable intervals); taking action necessary to receive wages or hold the payroll debit card; or point of sale transactions.

Last edited by doreen; 01-07-2017 at 09:36 AM.
  #44  
Old 01-07-2017, 10:54 AM
bob++ bob++ is offline
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It used to be the case that many people in the UK didn't have bank accounts either. Banks don't really want customers who spend all their wages as soon as they get them, so they were forced to offer basic no-frills accounts. ATMs are ubiquitous here and the fee-paying ones are mainly found in service stations and airports.

The two cheques I used in 2016 were for paying tradesmen. I imagine that next time |I need my gutters cleaning I will pay cash or use an app on my phone. Many shops and other organisation don't accept cheques these days anyway. The real question is - how much longer will we even need coins and notes? 2030 or so is my guess.

Last edited by bob++; 01-07-2017 at 10:55 AM.
  #45  
Old 01-07-2017, 11:02 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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The real question is - how much longer will we even need coins and notes?
Barring a complete overhaul (or abolition) of the money system, we'll need them for as long as people still value their privacy. Cheques, credit cards, and electronic transfers are not anonymous the way that cash is.
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