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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Technology Behind Check Processing – MICR

TROY MICR PrintersMost people who work and draw a paycheck might never pause before depositing it to give a long look at the thing and ponder its origins. Who really cares?

One might not pay much attention to their employer’s bank, the stock of paper a check is printed on, or even its size. It may seem irrelevant, completely inconsequential in the greater scheme of things, something far down the list of things often ignored that more deserve attention like sunrises or playful animals in the park or live theatre. There’s an incredible world most people rarely have time to explore, and perhaps they can’t be blamed for not beholding a slip of paper in their possession only as long as it takes to go to the bank.

Seemingly, the only time a check gets scrutinized is when it bounces or when an employee is worried this might happen. In this case, a check gets read more closely than a court summons, a welcome break for the check from otherwise continuous, bland obscurity. If employee paychecks were like geographic places, they’d be ideal for new entrants to the Witness Protection Program. What better place than somewhere no one ever really looks?

And yet like anything in life, every bit of a check has its origin and purpose, right down to the magnetic symbols at the bottom (referred to as MICR) that help the check get where it needs to go. Any companies attempting to mint their own pay stubs, as most companies do, generally use check printing software. Since MICR check printing requires special ionic toner, the checks must be run through specially-equipped printers as well.

From there, there’s special paper to be bought, signatures to be gathered, funds to be secured, bank names to be verified. It’s an involved process, one that may never get its due.

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