On 27th June 1967, the world’s first semi-automated cash dispenser – later to be known as the Automated Teller Machine – was unveiled by Barclays Bank at its North London Branch in Enfield.
Fifty-four years later, this humble machine can now be found at over 3.2 million locations around the world, with many having transformed into sophisticated deposit-taking, cash recycling, currency converting, video-linked financial services hubs capable of replacing bank branches. Despite recent closures, the overall number is growing.
“Some of these ATMs are pretty extreme,” said James Shepherd-Barron, son of the ATM’s ‘inventor’ and founder of The ATM Appreciation Society. “Did you know,” he said by way of example, “that the world’s smallest ATM is on a Bagel stall in New York City? Or that the world’s ‘wettest’ is in County Cork, Ireland and that floating ATMs are used in flood relief operations in Pakistan? Did you know that ATMs contain up to 32 sensors, some of which are capable of monitoring behavioural biometrics to the point that kidnapping and human trafficking can be thwarted? Or that they can monitor the spread of communicable diseases such as Covid-19?”
“Half of the adult world is forced to rely on cash,” he went on. “To many of them, the ATM is not a luxury; it is indispensable. Yet, at the same time, it is so under-appreciated. We walk past them every day but don’t stop to reflect on how crucial they are to the way most of the world still lives.”
“I founded The ATM Appreciation Society to celebrate what is actually the world’s original ‘fintech’ and to highlight the pivotal role cash machines play in reducing disaster risk and enhancing financial inclusion. I also wanted to highlight the awesome technologies involved, not just in the machine but in the cash it contains.”
And what better way to celebrate than by having a birthday party every year on 27th June where we can announce that year’s ‘Most Extreme ATM’.