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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Square coins? Mulligan!!

Yesterday's golf was miserable. Not because of company, location, price or weather, but because I played one of my worst games in over a year. Simply horrible. Mrs G went to see T in the evening, Son was watching 'the match' at his mate's house and daughter was at work, so by way of consolation S was up for a cheeky Tuesday beer in the local. This involved a good cycle ride (that's every day so far) and four pints of wallop.

What's really annoying is the price of a pint has gone up 5p to £2.55. When it was £2.50 a fiver was your friend (When it was £1 a fiver could kill you! -Ed) but now you have to have a pile of 10p pieces or at least a tenner in your pocket just to be sociable!! Grr. Thank god for debit cards.

And on that subject, here's QI for today if you haven't seen it already.  Do you remember (or did you ever hear about) back in 1995 how there was a trial of a cashless system in the UK, centred around Swindon ??  Mondex was it's name and replacing cash with cards was it's aim. Sadly... it failed miserably. It was a very enthusiastic effort on the part of the then Midland Bank, National Westminster and British Telecom. At it's peak and in even the busiest locations it managed a mere 2% of transactions. A valiant effort, but doomed to failure. Mostly because it was based on something that not everyone had. So you couldn't take your Mondex card to London and buy anything for instance....  pretty pointless really.

Before we get too carried away, it's worth pointing out that Mondex didn't just pack up and go home... nosiree. Instead they became the butt of one of the best Internet wide hoaxes back in 2004 when someone started the story that:

Mondex is planning to replace money with biochips embedded in people's heads and hands.

This was accompanied by a picture of an RFID chip just to make it all that much more believable and terrifying.  Of course, none of that is true...

Well, that was all back then...  this is 2010... and jet packs and flying cars aside, we're up to all sorts of incredible technological shenanigans*. Some bright spark who came up with Twitter, has now gone a step further and developed "SQUARE". You'll love this...   Square is an App for your phone which allows you to take payments from credit or debit cards via your handset.  That's it.  Nothing more complicated.  Simple.

Almost everyone has a credit or debit card (those that don't can still pay with cash by the way - it's just that involves them physically handing you some cash, notes or coins... just in case you'd forgotten) and payments with cards are almost as ubiquitous as payments with cash nowadays.

You can even get a card reader that plugs into the headphone socket of your phone to read the magnetic strip....



Awesome!!  So, where's the catch ???

Well, I hate to say there is one, but there is.  You can't have it if you live outside of the US.  Now, I think there might be a few very good reasons for this, not least of which is that in the UK we've gone all "chip and pin" and that's not something that's really happened stateside yet. In the UK magnetic strips are seen as vulnerable with readers (and writers) being common place tech.

Futhermore there's been a significant amount of investment by the banks and financial instituions in the Chip and Pin system. It's not going away in a hurry meaning getting square off the ground outside of the US could be a car crash.

Square's official line on it is this:
We are currently only available in the 50 US States, including DC. We are beginning to look into other markets, but at this time cannot support non-US entities. There is no specific timeline for our international rollout, but you have not been forgotten.

Keep your eyes on http://twitter.com/square for more information about our plans and development. We thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, if you'd like to know more, then this is the place to go see:

https://squareup.com/

Mrs G and I are off to spend cash, not Mondex on something nice by the sea. More on this tomorrow.

* It's a good word "Shenanigans", meaning mischief; prankishness, deceit or trickery. But... after a little bit of digging, I think I prefer this definition:
The name of a game played 24/7/365 by people who know of its existence. The game is played by first saying "Shenanigans", then, the person who said it is allowed to hit or otherwise hurt anyone within earshot of them at the time that they said it. The main target tends to be the groin on males and the chest on females. People who are within earshot when "Shenanigans" is said must say the word "Mulligan" 
as soon as they hear it to prevent being a target. If someone is hit either before or while you are saying the word "Shenanigans" or after they have said "Mulligan", you are considered to have cheated and they get a free hit on you. Note that saying "Shenanigans" lasts indefinately until each person within earshot has said "Mulligan"
Bob: "SHENANIGANS!" *smacks Tom in the groin* 
or 
Bob: "SHENANIGANS!" 
Tom: "MULLIGAN!"
*Bob hits Tom in the groin*
Tom: oooh, that's a free hit! *smacks Bob in the groin without penalty.*

This post originally appeared here: Posterous
 

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