Over dinner this evening, I wondered why it is that bank ATMs always have to ask me what language I prefer. Why not just encode my language preference on the card’s magnetic strip, so that when I insert the card into the machine it immediately knows what language to use?
It was, of course, too obvious an idea for me to have had it first: Why Not? has a post proposing the same idea just over a year ago. The followup comments pretty much covered all the related ideas that came up as well.
So while it turns out I don’t get points for having the idea first, the question still remains: why don’t ATM cards (and the ATMs themselves) offer this capability?
Update: I forgot to enable comments, so a few people have e-mailed me to say that Bank of America ATMs do in fact let you set your language preferences, along with several other options. Apparently these settings only carry to other BoA ATMs, so I suspect it’s data being stored in their database instead of being written onto the card itself. It would be nicer if the card could carry that information and have it recognized by all ATMs, but I suppose we get these things one step at a time.