Behind the Convenience

6 March 2018 – 23 May 2018

The Evolving Hardware of E-Money

Beneath the simple act of swiping a payment card or tapping your transit card lies a complicated network of technology and people. In this exhibit accompanying Decoding E-Money, which ran until May 23, 2018, we presented an array of payment system artifacts, e-money technology and Bitcoin processing hardware. These artifacts are the tangible tools that make spending invisible money possible.

Ever stop to consider what happens when you tap a payment card or make an e-money transaction? Those simple actions put into motion a whole world of interconnected digital hardware, maintained and developed by tens of thousands of people. In the Special Exhibits Case of Gallery 1, we assembled a collection of recent and not-so-recent electronic payment system artifacts to complement our temporary exhibition Decoding E-Money.

Items in this case were from Mondex and Bitcoin, two e-money systems of very different natures requiring very different technologies. Mondex, developed in the 1990s, required a host of terminals and card readers, while Bitcoin uses a network of independent users to settle its transactions. Either way, e-money has far more infrastructure than most of us might imagine, and this exhibition provided an interesting peek.

Photo Gallery

overall shot of display case

Almost all the artifacts in this case were recent acquisitions.

general image of artifacts

Collecting for a modern currency collection is not just about collecting currency.

Mondex logo

Mondex was tested in two pilot projects: in Guelph, Ontario and in Sherbrooke, Quebec.

Mondex terminal with instructions

Though these terminals would pose no problems for us today, in 1997, it was a different story.

Mondex card reader

You needed this device to tell you how much money was on your Mondex card.

bitcoin mining computer

Computers like this are chained together by the thousands in huge warehouses, running around the clock to solve the cryptographic problems that are the basis of Bitcoin’s secure settlement process.

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Ottawa, ON