Once upon a time, Frank McNamara finished a business lunch in a New York City restaurant, when he discovered he had forgotten his wallet. This was 1949, you see, when people used paper money. They were paid in cash, and spent cash at groceries, clothing and furniture stores, and, of course, restaurants. (How old-fashioned!) If one could not pay for the meal, according to lore, the restaurant would force him to wash dishes to pay the tab. In the slapstick version, the waiters would mercilessly pummel the poor deadbeat.
Frank was very embarrassed but managed to work things out. He then went home and dreamed up a system where people could pay for their meal with a signature and settle their account at the end of the month. Thus was born Diners Club, the first credit card. No one at the time could have imagined that this simple fix would morph into a vast money industry. Credit cards have profoundly changed our personal financial lives, not to mention the global economy.