To the proposals being put forward for connecting smart cards to computers, a French entrepreneur wants to add the lowly mouse.

To stress how his invention is different, Cornel Sirbu calls it Personal CAT-Conditional Access Terminal.

Mr. Sirbu and his company, Silcor of Guyancourt, France, unveiled Personal CAT in June at Interfinances '98, a trade show in Paris.

It has the look and feel of a personal computer mouse but is noticeably thicker and heavier to accommodate a chip card reader. Flipping it over reveals a 12-key numerical pad and two-line liquid crystal display for entry of personal identification numbers and other data.

"This has total interoperability," Mr. Sirbu said. "It connects to any computer port," theoretically enabling card activation and many forms of electronic commerce or loading of cash value.

Computer manufacturers are moving toward smart card readers in keyboards. Vendors such as Gemplus and Verifone offer streamlined card entry devices. Microsoft has announced an initiative to support the standards of the PC/SC Workgroup, with which Mr. Sirbu said Personal CAT will comply.

All tend to agree it will be years before PC card readers are common, and Mr. Sirbu sees CAT as a logical transition.

He said he began thinking this out two years ago. "The device had to be close to the user, handy, user-friendly, and simple to connect," he said.

He described the result as "an upside-down smart card terminal, its back having the look and ergonomics of the common mouse. ... It is the only smart card terminal that replaces the mouse and takes over the pointing function as well."

Mr. Sirbu sees the bulkiness of Personal CAT as a potential advantage. Bankers and their customers would regard it as "not cheap."

Mr. Sirbu is working with a consultant in New York, Andrei Racz, who he hopes can help CAT get noticed by those conducting the Mondex and Visa Cash market trial.

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