Machines Don’t Keep Bankers’ Hours


Perhaps you don’t remember leaving work early or foregoing a meal during your lunch break in order to run down and stand in line at the bank to make a deposit or get out cash. And forget entering those hallowed halls after 5pm, weekends, or any (and I mean any holiday).

That world began to change in June 1967 when the first ATM opened outside a branch of Barclays Bank in the Enfield area of London. People came from all around to watch as the first person placed a special check, encoded with carbon-14, into the machine, put in his PIN, and then a special plastic card and miraculously cash came out of a small metal slot. (This system for using an ATM has, obviously, been simplified over the years.)

The mastermind behind the ATM was John Shepherd-Barron, an Indian-born British inventor. Apparently, the idea came to him one day when he got to his bank one minute late and had to wait until the next day to withdraw the cash he needed. He put that problem together with the design of a chocolate vending machine. What if you could create a vending machine that would dispense cash?

I’m sure when that first automated teller machine was installed outside Barclays Bank in 1967, no one, not even its inventor, could see that it was a step toward the world of online commerce and digital currency of our current age.