Today, anyone can walk up to an ATM and retrieve the cash they need for their everyday transactions. It's easy to take this convenient banking technology for granted, yet it hasn't always been available. The first retail ATM machine appeared in the U.S. in 1969. It only had one function: to provide cash. Today, they can do so much more.
On June 27, 1967, London made history when the first retail ATM machine opened for business at a Barclays branch. Not long afterward, in 1969, America saw its first retail ATM installed in Rockville Centre on Long Island, NYC. The retail ATM machine provider, Docutel, installed it at the Chemical Bank. Only its customers could use the machine and just to withdraw cash from their accounts. About a decade later, the first shared ATMs were introduced. These allowed customers of other banks to access any bank's ATMs.
The idea for Docutel's retail ATM machines is widely attributed to Don Wetzel, who worked for the company. It's been said that Wetzel thought of the idea of an automated cash machine while he was waiting in line at a bank. Yet, these early machines were quite limited in functionality. In 1971, however, customers gained access to a then-new generation of them with more retail ATM features. For example, they were now able to check their account balances.
Although Wetzel is credited with the idea for Docutel's early machines, another inventor, John Shepherd-Barron, is thought to have developed the idea for Barclay's machine, installed a couple of years before Docutel's. It's said that Shepherd-Barron was thinking about vending machines that dispensed chocolate bars when he suddenly wondered why machines couldn't also provide cash for bank customers.
It didn't take long for retail ATM machines to catch on with consumers. Many banks throughout the country had installed their own by 1970. This trend was accompanied by an advertising blitz encouraging customers to try them. One bank sponsored a Paul Newman movie marathon on TV and aired commercials for their new ATMs at regular intervals.
In 1977, Citibank invested over $100 million to install retail ATM machines throughout New York City. Later, a blizzard inundated the city with more than a foot of snow, which caused the prolonged closure of banks. Customers braved the snowy weather to get to the ATMs instead, resulting in a 20% increase in usage.
Today, you'd be hard-pressed to walk through a city or a shopping center without seeing ATMs scattered everywhere. In addition, modern machines have robust retail ATM features that 1970s customers would have thought incredibly futuristic, like touch screens and advanced security enhancements.
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