50 years with ATMs

50 years with ATMs

In 1967 the first automated teller machine was put into operation

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the invention of the ATM, we remember when Wolfgang Braunwieser, managing director of SBS, had the opportunity to meet the inventor of the ATM in an ATMIA conference in Orlando in February 2007.

The speech is by John Shepherd-Barron, who unfortunately died on May 15th 2010. He took the opportunity to talk about the development and introduction of the first cash dispensers in a very personal and humorous way. So Shepherd-Barron did not shy away from mentioning that he designed the basic idea of the cash dispenser in the bathtub.

At that time Shepherd-Barron was managing director of De La Rue Instruments. To what extent this personal success story proved to be decisive for the development of the cash dispenser, Shepherd-Barron makes himself clear: "At first my interest was in the printing of money, then it was the transport of money. The next step, which seemed to me to be logical, was the automatic issuance of money. This allowed the process to be completed."

However, it still required an everyday event that led Shepherd-Barron to invent the cash dispenser. Since shepherd-Barron lived with his wife Caroline in the country, he took cash from the local branch of his bank. His habit was to settle his checks there on Saturdays in order to have enough money for the weekend. However, when Shepherd-Barron one day found his bank with locked doors, he realized that this way of cash supply could be a hurdle. This little annoyance had a big impact, for Shepherd Barron it was the reason to think: "On that night, lying in the bathtub, I thought there must be a way to get my money at every day and every hour. After a while the machines selling chocolate bars, which were often seen on railway platforms, came to my mind. There I put a penny inside, pull the lever and the chocolate bar falls down into the output tray. "

"A bundle of 10 pounds should be enough for the weekend. "

Now Shepherd-Barron combined thoughtfully. Piles of about ten banknotes should be wrapped in envelopes and filled into the vault of the cash dispenser. The bundle should then fall out of the tray as soon as the user's check was read by the machine. On the check, various data should be recorded in order to ensure the security of the payment. In addition, a method had to be found with which the user could be automatically identified. It was necessary for each customer to have its own identification number. Shepherd-Barron thought of the six-digit identification numbers, as they were common in the army. As Shepherd-Barron himself tells, however, it should not be long: "The next morning I discussed my idea with Caroline. She doubted, however, that customers are able to memorize six digits." Thus, the four-digit code became a worldwide standard.

In the same week it became clear what importance Shepherd-Barron's invention should have for banking. As chairman of the Security Express, Shepherd-Barron hosted one of the lunch parties organized by De La Rue on a regular basis. Among the guests was Harold Davill, the general manager of Barclay's Bank and Shepherd-Barron with no hesitation in approaching him confronted him with his invention. "During the second dry martini, I harassed my guest Harold Davill and asked him about 90 seconds of his time to show him my not yet mature idea." Already after 85 seconds, Davill's answer came: "If I could develop such a device, he would buy it on the spot."

This short conversation took place on a Friday and on the following Monday Shepherd-Barron was visited by the CEO of Barclay's Bank. What Shepherd-Barron seems to have remembered in the first place is that the CEO of Barclay's had a Rolls-Royce and it was difficult to find a parking space for him before Shepherd-Barron's little office. After finding a solution, the CEO turned to Shepherd-Barron and said he would not leave before signing a contract. The content of this agreement obligated Shepherd-Barron to develop and implement six prototypes, followed by another 250 cash distributors in 50 branches. This rapid success story still amazes Shepherd-Barron today.

"Can you imagine this - from an idea Saturday night to a contract with one of the largest banks in the world within just nine days?"

On June 27, 1967, the first cash dispenser was put into operation at the Barclay's Bank branch in Enfield, north of London. Shepherd-Barron admits, “however, that the commissioning was not quite smooth.

I remember trying to teach the chairman of the bank how to enter his four-digit code - obviously he had not pushed a single button in his entire life! Finally, we had to fake the input from the rear. So everything went smoothly at the event, at least for the BBC evening news. "

The American chapter of the success story of the money dispensing machine started 1969 in Florida. Shepherd-Barron was the first non-American to be invited to the "American Bankers' Association Automation Conference" to give a speech. Shepherd Barron had 15 minutes available to present his cash system. The response to Shepherd-Barron's presentation was also limited: polite applause, no questions, and only 12 information brochures printed in 2000 could be distributed.

The general opinion in the audience seemed to be dominated by the question of who needs cash at any hour. Six weeks later, however, Shepherd-Barron got a call from First Pennsylvania Bank. The bank ordered "six of the things the Englishman spoke about in Miami." As little as flattering this chapter in the history of the money dispensing machine may sound, the cash dispenser was used for the first time in the USA.

After the first equipment had been installed, it rained in London avalanche-like inquiries from banks and their suppliers. At this time De La Rue began to position itself as an OEM supplier for mechanical money machines.

SBS Managing Director Wolfgang Braunwieser & John Shepherd-Barron
Photo: ATM Industry Association

Asked if he had believed in the invention of the money dispensing machine that would result in a big industry like this, Shepherd-Barron replied, "Yes, I thought it would. I knew it would change the banking system ".


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