MICR: Magnetic Ink Character Recognition
Short for Magnetic-Ink Character Recognition, MICR is a type of font capable of recognition using magnetically charged ink. Computers equipped with the right hardware and software can print and/or read the character printed in such ink.
It a character recognition technology adopted mainly by the banking industry to facilitate the processing of cheques. The process was demonstrated to the American Bankers Association in July 1956, and was almost universally employed in the U.S. by 1963.
MICR is standardized by ISO 1004.
MICR font is commonly used to print checks, deposit slips, mortgage coupons, etc. There are various types of MICR fonts, the MICR E-13B font is used in the Canada, Panama, Puerto Rico, UK, and the United States. The MICR CRC-7 was created according to the ISO standards and is a font used in France, Mexico, Spain, and most other Spanish speaking countries.
The major MICR fonts used around the world are E-13B and CMC-7. The E-13B font was chosen by George Jacobi, who was working for General Electric at the time.
The control characters after the numerals are (from left to right) internal, terminator, amount, routing, and an unused character.In addition to their unique fonts, MICR characters are printed with a magnetic ink or toner, usually containing iron oxide. Magnetic printing is used so that the characters can be reliably read into a system, even when they have been overprinted with other marks such as cancellation stamps. The characters are first magnetized in the plane of the paper with a North pole on the right of each MICR character. Then they are usually read with a MICR read head which is a device similar in nature to the playback head in an audio tape recorder, and the letterforms’ bulbous shapes ensure that each letter produces a unique waveform for the character recognition system to provide a reliable character result. Examples of MICR waveforms have been developed and can be displayed using spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel or compatible.
In 1991, Advantage Laser Products became the first toner cartridge manufacturer to offer MICR toner in lieu of MICR Ink for desktop laser printers. This revolutionized the check printing business. Prior to 1991 checks were printed with magnetic ink on an offset press. With the advent of MICR toner, checks could be printed on almost any desktop laser printer.