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Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Slot machine

Forty years ago Reg Varney, a popular British comic actor, changed the face of banking by becoming the world’s first cash machine customer at Barclays Enfield branch in North London. On Wednesday, 27th June 2007, the cash machine, or Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) celebrated its 40th birthday.

The original machines, described as mini-banks, were designed to allow customers access to cash 24 hours a day, outside of the restrictive normal banking times of the 1960s. The machine was designed to dispense £10 against a special paper voucher which the customer inserted into the machine, followed by a unique four digit personal identification number, or PIN code, in much the same way as today. By the end of the 1960s, there were 781 cash machines across the world, although South Africa was yet to introduce this innovation to the banking public.
The first two ATMs in South Africa were installed by United – a forerunner of Absa – at its Johannesburg branch in 1977. The terminals, called “Help U Auto Tellers”, enabled customers to make deposits, withdrawals and certain account enquiries with the use of a transaction card and PIN. By the mid-1980s, there were approximately 700 ATMs in South Africa, the fifth largest amount in the world behind the USA, Japan, UK and France.
At the end of 2006, there were approximately 13,000 ATMs in South Africa – more than 7,000 of which were part of Absa’s network, the largest ATM footprint in the country. By the end of last year, there were 1.64 million ATMs worldwide, and it is predicted that this will grow to 2 million by 2010.*
The cash machine was invented by John Shepherd–Barron, a managing director of De La Rue, whilst relaxing in his bath one day. He presented the idea to Harold Darvill, chief general manager of Barclays, who committed the company to buying the machines immediately. They were developed jointly by De La Rue and Barclays and swiftly moved from conception to installation within 24 months in order to beat the competition.
Said inventor Shepherd-Barron, “I am delighted that the cash machine is still going strong. 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 and my bank was closed. I had to ask my local garage to cash my cheque. 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. Within two years my idea had become reality and we opened the first cash machine at Barclays Enfield.”
John Warren, head of cash machines for Barclays, said, “The cash machine, more than any other banking innovation, has had a major impact on the way we all conduct our lives, not just our banking. Forty years ago, cash was only available from 9 to 3 pm Monday to Friday and Saturdays from 9 to 12.30 pm, and, as cash was king, queues outside branches on a Saturday morning to get weekend money were common. Now you can get money any time, anywhere.”
Although famed for its convenience, of the 1.6 million cash machines worldwide, the most remote is at the McMurdo station at the South Pole, serving a small permanent base of scientists.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:20.7 1st August, 2007
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