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27 June 2010

On this day in history: First electronic Automatic Teller Machine installed, 1967

In 1939 the Armenian-American inventor Luther George Simjian came up with the idea of a automated mechanical cash dispenser for banks. He registered twenty payments for his invention and finally persuaded the City Bank of New York (now Citibank) to run a six-month trial of one his machines; however, lack of customer demand resulted in the removal of the machine. According to Simjian, "It seems the only people using the machines were a small number of prostitutes and gamblers who didn't want to deal with tellers face to face."

The idea was revived in the 1960s by the Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron, who apparently came up with the idea while in the bath. While considering ways in which he could have access to his money anywhere in the world, he realised that he could create a vending machine for money. When he approached Barclays Bank with his idea they jumped at the chance.

On 27th June 1967 the world's first electronic ATM came into service at Barclays' Enfield Town branch, in North London. The first customer to use the machine was the actor Reg Varney, most famous for his roles in situation comedies. On this pioneering system, the customer inserted a cheque impregnated with the slightly radioactive carbon 14 which the machine detected and then dispensed an envelope containing a ten pound note. One year prior to the installation of Shepherd-Barron's machine, another Scottish inventor called James Goodfellow patented the Personal Identification Number (PIN) technology, which is used on ATM machines around the world today.

Related posts
First European banknotes: 16th July 1661
First banknotes issued in America: 3rd February 1690
Bank of England founded: 27th July 1694

Also on this day in history
Czech reformist manifesto published, 1968