Back in 1956, an engineer and a mathematician, William Fair and Earl Isaac, pooled $800 to start a company. Their idea: a score to handicap whether a borrower would repay a loan.
It was all done with pen and paper. Income, gender, and occupation produced numbers that amounted to a prediction about a person’s behavior. By the 1980s the three-digit scores were calculated on computers and instead took account of a person’s actual credit history. Today, Fair Isaac Corp., or FICO, generates about 10 billion credit scores annually, calculating 50 times a year for many Americans.