The ATM, or Automated Teller Machine, is a common sight today, but that has not always been the case. ATMs are used to allow consumers to withdraw money from their bank accounts, check their balances, and perform some other actions. Some ATMs allow customers of the specific bank that maintains the machine to deposit cash. Some ATMs allow people to top up their mobile phones using their debit cards.
There are now more than 3.5 million ATMs installed worldwide. The very first ATM was installed in Japan in 1966. It was a ‘Computer Loan Machine’ which gave people cash on a three month loan, with an interest rate of 5% per annum. The first idea for an ATM that was documented was one that was patented by Adrian Ashfield, based on an idea for a card based machine that relied on a card and a unique number from the user to prove their identity. The first true cash machine, of the kind that we know of as an ATM today, was the Barclay Bank Cash Machine that was installed in a branch in North London, England in 1967. From there, use spread rapidly. Bank of Scotland started using the machines in 1968, which should come as no surprise because they have links to Barclays. In 1969, the first ATM appeared in Australia, but it was a primitive device – it would dispense $25 at a time, and users would have to wait for their card to be returned to them in the post.
Today, ATMs are far more flexible. For example, the Royal Bank of Scotland now has machines that will allow users to withdraw up to £100 at a time by entering a code that they can request using their smartphone.
Today, most ATMs are free to use, but there are still some that are used as a revenue-generation option, and that charge a fee for cash withdrawals. These are usually seen in pubs and concert venues, where patrons are likely to need cash but be unwilling to leave. There are ATMs at gas stations, and on cruise ships, too, and these often offer multiple language options because they are going to be used by people who are traveling. Many have Braille on the keypads and to help users find side buttons. They are usually built-in to walls to prevent theft or damage of the machine itself, and recessed to stop passers by from watching users entering their PINs.