The first ATM celebrates its 50th birthday today!

calendar iconJun 27, 2017


Make sure you wish your trusty debit card a happy 30-year anniversary and your favourite ATM a happy golden 50-year jubilee because June 2017 is packed with cash-happy birthday celebrations. Time to get financially festive, folks. 

For the 25th anniversary, a small plaque was placed next to the historical hole in the wall but few noticed it, - 'a classic case of British understatement'. Today, Barclays has made sure that the ATM in the historical spot is proudly sporting a coat of gold paint to celebrate its 50th. Let's see you ignore that, World

Still not excited? Did we mention that like many of history's best ideas, the design of the first ATM was inspired by our second favourite c-word?

Chocolate... obviously.  

The ATM, which stands for Automatic Teller Machine, was created in order to offer customers a way of withdrawing cash outside of bank branch opening hours. It was the product of the late De La Rue inventor John Shepherd-Barron from Scotland, who was commissioned by Barclays to make the first six ATMs. But of course, like with most inventions, the credit is disputed

According to an interview with BBC in 2007, the inspiration stemmed from a vision of chocolate dispensers giving out cash instead of chocolate bars. Some reports say Shepherd-Barron was in soaking in the bath when the idea came to him. The initial pitch was to offer customers a way to withdraw cash outside of bank opening hours. 

With approximately 70,000 cash machines across the UK and 176 million withdrawal cards which withdrew a total of £180bn from UK ATMs in 2016, it's no surprise that cash is still alive and well in spite of the rise in digital payment technology. 

The use of ATMs differs around the world. In western Europe, it is Portugal that holds the highest concentration of ATMs with 1,516 machines per one million residents while Sweden, holds the lowest at 333 machines per one million people.

"Even though recent years have seen a huge uptake of digital banking and card payments, cash remains a crucial part of most people's day-to-day lives [...] we're very proud of the role that Barclays has played in the history of the cash machine."
"Raheel AhmedHead of Customer ExperienceBarclays

ATM History

In 27th of June 1967, the world's first ATM is installed at a Barclays branch in Enfield, London and unveiled by comedy actor Reg Varney. Following in suit, came the next five ATMs, in Hove, Ipswich, Southend, Luton and Peterborough. To allow customers to withdraw the fixed amount of £10, banks issued special vouchers that would be accepted by their ATMs similarly to a cheque. 

In 1969, New York unveils the first card-operated ATM.

In the 1970s, banks in the UK begin to producing perforated cash withdrawal cards with magnetic strips and four-digit PIN codes. 

In 1975, boasting 257 ATMs and over 175,000 users, Barclays raises their withdrawal limit from £10 to £50. 

In 1993, the number of ATMs worldwide grows to 19,000.

As of 1998, the world sees independent ATMs appearing in pubs and convenience shops.  

Now in 2017, we have over three million ATMs around the world. Some take smartphones readings instead of cards, some allow video conferences with bank reps and some let you open an account and even write signatures.

What does the future hold for the world of ATMs? Who knows, but if the Bank of Ireland's activities is anything to go by, we can expect ATMs to take on bank branch services soon. The 'bank branch in a box' research by NCR argues that '80% of the transactions typically completed inside a physical branch could be completed through a video teller at an ATM'.

"ATMs perform an important role in the UK economy and maintain customer interactions with a bank. Perhaps cash will always be king."
"Jeremy LightManaging Director of PaymentsAccenture

BBC Video: 'Will we soon be paying for ATMs?' Uploaded on BBC on 26 June 2017

Take the ATM quiz here

Ever heard of a Lebanese Loop? Few have! How much to YOU know about cash machines, cash points, ATMs, tellers, hole in the wall, magic money box, or what have you? Take the BBC ATM Quiz and find out! 

Read full article here


"Cash 'lives on' after 50 years of ATMs." BBC News. June 27, 2017. Accessed June 27, 2017. Web. 

Last Updated: Jul 12, 2017