Sunday, May 23, 2010

The inventor of the ATM makes his final withdrawal

John Shepherd-Barron, inventor of the now-ubiquitous automated teller machine, has died in Scotland at the age of 84. The Telegraph reports:

The first automated teller machine (ATM) was installed at a branch in Enfield, London, in 1967, when Reg Varney, one of the stars of the television show On the Buses, became the first person to withdraw cash.

It was operated by inserting a special cheque that was matched against a PIN number, and paved the way for machines using plastic cards. There are now nearly two million machines worldwide.

Mr Shepherd-Barron ... did not patent his system and did not make any money from his invention, but was made an OBE in 2005 for his services to banking. He was also presented with a lifetime achievement award by the ATM Industry Association.

Describing his "eureka" moment, he once said: "I remember back in 1965 that I would always take money out of my bank on a Saturday morning. However, one Saturday I was one minute late at my bank and it was closed.

"That night I started thinking that there must be a better way to get cash when I wanted it. I thought of the chocolate vending machine, where money was put in a slot and a bar dispatched. Surely money could be dispensed in the same way.

"By chance, in 1965, I bumped into the chief general manager of Barclays Bank who was about to have lunch. I said, over a pink gin, 'Give me 90 seconds'.

"I told him I had an idea that if you put your standard Barclays cheque through a slot in the side of the bank, it will deliver standard amounts of money round the clock."

The planned six-digit PIN was later changed to four because the inventor said his wife Caroline could only remember four figures.

There's more at the link.

Pity he never patented his invention. With over 1.8 million ATM's in use worldwide (according to the ATM Industry Association), I guess the royalties on each machine would have made him a rich man!


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