The world’s first ATM was installed in a branch of Barclays in Enfield, in North London, this week 45 years ago this week.
And the man who invented the financial lifeline? Mr John Shepherd-Barron.
Mr Shepherd-Barron was a Scottish inventor and the pioneer of the development of the cash machine. The success of his first and greatest invention is something to which millions of Brits take for granted each and every day- to be able to withdraw money from a ‘hole in the wall.’
It was the Scot’s inspiration, to which he found in the bath, which hauled Reg Varney into fame as the very first person to withdraw cash from an ATM.
Mr Shepherd- Barron died on 15th May 2010 after a brief illness at the age of 84 but before he passed away he told the BBC: “It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world or the UK. I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash.”
And that was that- over a pink gin Mr Shepherd-Barron signed a contract with Barclays bank. At the time he was working for a printing firm called De La Rue.
The cash dispensing machines were slightly different to the ones in present day, as plastic cards had not been invented yet so Mr Shepherd-Barron’s machines used cheques that were infused with carbon 14, a mildly radioactive substance. The machine detected it and then matched the cheque against a PIN number. It paid out a maximum of £10 a time.
There were teething problems however as with all technologies. The first machines were vandalised and one unit began to malfunction. But one by-product of inventing the first cash machine was the concept of the PIN which was influenced by his wife at the time Caroline, who argued over the kitchen table that she could only remember four figures as opposed to his six-figure army number.
Today a small plague is placed outside the ATM at Barclays in Enfield High Street. Now there are more than 1.6 million cash machines worldwide- it is the ultimate British understatement.
Before he died Mr Shepherd-Barron told the BBC how he believed his invention use in the future would change due to the demise of cash. He predicted that society would no longer be using pounds coins and paper notes but instead swiping out mobile phones at till points, even for small transactions.
It seems the magnificent inventor was right on cue as T-Mobile and Orange have just announced their joint forces with Vodafone and O2 to develop a ‘wave and pay’ system on network handsets which will essentially turn mobile phones on the participating networks into wallets.
PIC Credits: BBC