The invention and history of ATM
Here’s one for your next pub quiz… well, who else is going to have knowledge of the history of the humble cash machine? In fact, it’s easy to forget that things that are used in everyday life once had to be invented. Things like paper, bottles and sofas – had you given a thought to how and when they were invented?
Forget about the paper for now (although now even we’re interested so we might post about that later). Let’s focus on the genius invention of an ATM. Imagine yourself in the early 1960’s. Instead of popping to a machine in the wall, you have to go into a bank every time you need cash and do the process over the counter. This meant actually speaking to a human being, how scary!
You can imagine that being quite frustrating – imagine spontaneously deciding to go to your local disco one evening and realising that you have no cash and all the banks are closed.
Thankfully, a Scottish guy (and inventor) named John Shepherd-Barron experienced the same frustration. When in the bath on evening, he came up with a cunning idea. What if chocolate dispensers could dispense cash? It’s not clear whether he shouted eureka, but Shepherd-Barron did immediately get in contact with at least one bank – Barclays.
Negotiation & Installation
Apparently over a pink gin, the Barclays boss was quick in signing a contract with Shepherd-Barron in what felt like a race for the first ATM. (What a key part of history that turned out to be!) After it’s development, Barclays installed the world’s first ATM in their branch in Enfield, London on 27th June 1967. (There’s pub quiz fact #1)
On a side note (for those that remember him) Reg Varney – bus driver Stan in On The Buses – was the first person ever to withdraw cash from an ATM. (Pub quiz fact #2)
With bank cards not yet invented, people had to use a cheque-like piece of paper to withdraw money. It was inserted into the ATM and recognised as genuine due to containing radioactive substance Carbon14 (pub quiz fact #3). Apparently Shepherd-Barron – presumably after being repeatedly questioned on this – calculated that you’d need to EAT 136,000 of these cheques for the radiation to have an effect at all on your body. Does that count as pub quiz fact #4?
Anyway, the ATM was obviously very popular and the number of machine grew exponentially across the world. The first ATM in the USA was installed on 2nd September 1969 (pub quiz fact #5) in the Rockville Centre, New York branch of Chemical Bank (pub quiz fact #6).
Obviously as the ATM became more popular, every man and his dog was trying to cash in (sorry for the pun) by developing their own, better version. Even though the developments have been fairly continuous since the first installation and are still happening to this day, the first “modern ATM” was commissioned by Lloyds Banking Group and made by IBM (pub quiz fact #7). The first one of these was installed on Brentwood High Street, Essex, UK in December 1972 (pub quiz fact #8).
Most recently in the UK, RBS launched a service for Natwest and RBS customers to withdraw up to £100 from an ATM using a 6 digit code generated on their mobile app in 2012 (pub quiz fact #9). Most people in the UK are still using the ATM the good old-fashioned way though. In other countries however, ATMs are being used for a lot more services. In Ibiza, for example, Euronet ATMs have started dispensing tickets for club events!
As for numbers, globally there are close to 3 million ATMs and at the time of publication, the most recent statistics (December 2016) say that 70,020 of these are in the UK – pub quiz fact #10.
So apart from the pub quiz info, remember that we’re publishing this to celebrate a momentous occasion in history. This month is the 50th anniversary of the first ATM installation, an idea born in a bathtub in Scotland. So happy birthday to the cash machine – and thank you John Shepherd-Barron for your service to the world!