For millions of people, automated teller machines (ATMs) are great for getting cash quickly. But soon, you'll be able to make airline reservations, retrieve insurance information, get tickets for the opera, or pay a highway toll at various ATM-like machines -- with just one plastic card.
That will require cards with more smarts than today's bank cards. At a San Antonio trade show in early December, American Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s NCR Corp. subsidiary previewed a system build around AT&T's "smart card," a bank card embedded with a computer microprocessor and memory chips. A single card can be used for many types of transactions because its memory chips can store several pages of information, such as your bank account balance, medical insurance, or even a digital "print" of you saying your password. That way, instead of punching in four-digit personal I.D. numbers, you'll just say your password before making transactions. Since every voiceprint is unique and can't be forged, it should cut down on electronic fraud, AT&T says. The company expects its smart cards to be in use in the U.S. by 1994.