The Ecphorizer

Update to Home Banking Article
Tod Wicks

Issue #33 (May 1984)

I published an article last month that exposed Bank of America's HomeBanking scheme as little more than another means of ripping off the public with a non-essential service. This service was advertised as a form of electronic banking through use of your home computer. The ripoff was that, while bank branches were closing and personnel were being laid off (saving the bank several million dollars a year), the HomeBanking service would cost the user $8 a month for services that were normally provided by the bank through normal means, such as telephoning to check your balance.Thus, the bank was saving money by reducing branches and personnel and charging users of HomeBanking an overhead for helping the bank to reduce personnel by using electronic means to gain information.

Since writing that article, I have spoken with a former employee of Bank of America who also happens to be a home computer enthusiast. His first comment was, "How true, how true," when asked about the article. He also described his own experience with the service. If you were among those who signed up late last year, the introduction included the first four months free of charge. My source, always spotting a good deal, signed up.

His first complaint was that the designers of the program at BofA, wanting to be the first on the market with such a service, opted to have the display on your home terminal screen come up in a 40 (characters across) by 17 (lines down) format, this being the least common denominator. It is apparently the screen size of an Atari or some such. To use this format on most other terminals, such as Apple or IBM, the lower half of the screen is blank, and somewhat annoying. My source and I agreed that a simple user profile table in the main program would allow the new user to specify the screen format desired. This could be done as an answer to one of the questions on the application form, or done at the time the new user first logs onto the system. This sort of table is used extensively by operators of such computer bulletin board systems as STUART II to customize the format of each user.

My source also said that what you get is not all that hot for even the $4 per month employee fee; that only the most dedicated of computer hackers would find it worth the price. It is also interesting to note that you don't have to have a home computer to use HomeBanking. A terminal that connects to the phone line will actually do the same thing.

Contributor Profile

Tod Wicks

Long time Ecphorizer and current Editor of all things Ecphorizer, Tod enjoyed a varied career in telecommunications having cut his teeth at Ma Bell, then getting in on the ground floor at Rolm working on digital PBXs, getting a light workout at Raynet while installing fiber optic transmission systems, and finally working at Cisco Systems prior to retiring.

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