In the past, people did not make a habit of traveling so there was no need to carry an identity document to verify personal data like modern-day passports. People generally lived and died in the same country or territory where they were born.
Travel permits were granted to people upon request by kings, and these were typically given to adventurous men who did not return to the place from which they departed.
The first passports popped up around the year 1800. They did not contain pictures of people because photography had not yet been invented. Instead, the document had a brief written description of the person outlining their skin color, eye color, height and build. Some of these passports were quite informal.
In 1939, Louis Daguerre introduced modern photography. However, it wasn’t until six decades later that human photographs were adapted to smaller sizes that could be used regularly in identity documents.
Today, digital technology has made it possible for identity documents and passports to not only contain people’s photographs but also bar codes that can be read with a laser beam that brings up all of the person’s basic data in a matter of seconds.
Many countries use modern digital fingerprint and iris readers, which could make carrying a physical identity document unnecessary in the near future.
This technology not only helps to accurately identify a person, which makes it practical in terms of global application, but it also helps to diminish risks in situations where proper identification is crucial, such as banks and financial centers.