Scottish invented ATM celebrates 50 years in operation

It is the brainchild of Scottish inventors which transformed everyday banking for millions of people around the world.

English actor Reg Varney (1916 - 2008) makes the first withdrawal from a Barclaycash machine, at the Enfield branch of Barclays Bank. Picture: B. Marshall/Fox Photos/Getty Images
English actor Reg Varney (1916 - 2008) makes the first withdrawal from a Barclaycash machine, at the Enfield branch of Barclays Bank. Picture: B. Marshall/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Today marks 50 years since the cash machine first appeared on the nation’s streets.

The world’s first ATM was unveiled by Barclays at its Enfield branch in north London on 27 June 1967. As a tribute to the golden anniversary, the bank has transformed the modern-day Enfield cash machine into gold.

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It comes as the rapid growth in the use of contactless cards means cash will be overtaken as Britain’s most frequently-used payment method by the end of next year.

But the banking industry said the traditional ‘hole in the wall’ was evolving to keep pace with changing consumer habits.

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The original ATM was the brainchild of John Shepherd-Barron, from Inverness, who arrived at his local branch just as it was closing one day.

While soaking in a bath, he struck upon an alternative means of accessing his money, imagining a machine similar to chocolate dispensers.

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Over a pink gin, he convinced Barclays that his vision was viable. Within two years, history was made at the Enfield branch, with the new machine allowing customers to withdraw as much as £10 a time. It was, its inventor would later recall, “quite enough for a wild weekend.”

Mr Shepherd-Barron died in 2010 at the age of 84. While he was long regarded as the father of the ATM, another Scot, James Goodfellow, can also lay claim to the title.

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The Paisley native unveiled his iteration of the ATM the same year at Mr Shepherd-Barron. Crucially, his was patented 12 months earlier, and was the first to use a card and PIN code system. Last year, he revealed he made around £10 from the patent, and has not made a penny more since.

Despite the rise in other new technologies, such as online and mobile banking, the ATM remains popular 50 years on; the UK record for the most cash withdrawn in a day was broken as recently as December last year as Christmas shoppers withdrew £730m.

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While consumers are no longer reliant on hard cash to pay for goods, trade association Payments UK has said its forecast did not envisage the demise of money, as even in 10 years, it is still expected to make up around a fifth (21%) of all payments.

Raheel Ahmed, head of customer experience at Barclays, said: “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 - whether it’s paying for groceries or doing the office coffee run.”

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Jeremy Light, managing director of payments at technology services company Accenture, said the ATMs of today were evolving.

He explained: “The ATM is changing, as it takes on a new role to complement online banking. Donating to charity, buying stamps or even applying for a credit card are all possible and may come to your local ATM.

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“Smarter technology means ATMs are more secure and versatile today, for example cash withdrawals using a mobile instead of a card. ATMs perform an important role in the UK economy and maintain customer interactions with a bank. Perhaps cash will always be king.”