The first time the Electronic Transactions Association held a conference, 34 people showed up, and the highlight was a scuffle between a board member and a sales agent who refused to pay a registration fee until he determined the conference was worth it.

That was in San Diego in 1991, a year after the ETA's founding as an interest group for people who sell bank card processing and acceptance services to merchants. At the time, these smaller merchant acquirers had what they themselves say was an unsavory reputation, based on pockets of abuse.

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