Square yesterday unveiled its next-gen credit card reader, set to be released in 2014. The new design is super thin, with the peripheral's thickness being slashed by an impressive 45 percent.
As it turns out, there's a strong Apple connection to the new, super-svelte Square reader. Shrinking down a device that's already quite thin is no small feat. It requires an incredible amount of engineering acumen, a complete re-thinking of the original design and, in Square's case, even custom designing some of the device's components. The man at Square tasked with slimming down the popular card reader was Jesse Dorogusker, the company's VP of Hardware.
Before joining Square in 2011, Dorogusker, an electromechanical engineer by training, spent eight years working as a director of engineering in Apple's accessory division. While there, Wired reports that Dorogusker helped spearhead development of Apple's ultra-compact Lightning connector.
The Wired article describes, in fascinating detail, the amount of work that went into improving a device that really only has one task -- reading credit cards.
By tweaking the design of the spring to which the magnetic read head was attached, the team was able to fine-tune the friction customers feel when swiping their card. At one point in development, they found that the level of contact they needed to successfully transfer data from a card resulted in a swipe that felt too loose. And when the swipe felt too loose, it felt like it wasn't working, and would thus require another swipe. So they increased the friction above what was actually needed–an adjustment that was overkill from a technical point of view, but resulted in a swipe that felt perfect to the hand.
The entire article is definitely worth a read if you're at all curious as to the design and engineering efforts that often accompany making an already small device even smaller and, more importantly, more functional.