The ‘hole in the wall’ celebrates its 40th birthday today having firmly established itself on the high streets of Britain.
Inspired by a chocolate vending machine and first used by Reg Varney of On The Buses fame, cash machines now number more than 60,000 in the UK, enabling customers to withdraw £180 billion annually.
It is a far cry from the single cash dispenser that opened on June 27 1967 outside a branch of Barclays bank in Enfield, north London.
Comedy actor Varney made the first transaction, withdrawing a £10 note in front of the small crowd that had gathered to witness the event.
By the end of the decade there were 781 cash machines across the world, with 595 in the UK alone.
The global figure has now grown to around 1.64 million, dispensing cash of all currencies to shoppers and revellers around the world.
The reach of ATM has even gone as far as the South Pole – a machines at the remote McMurdo station serves a small permanent team of Antarctic scientists.
The inventor of the cash machine, John Shepherd Barron, said he struck upon the concept after being confronted with a shut door at his local bank.
Mr Shepherd Barron said: ‘I remember back in 1965 that I would always take money out of my bank on a Saturday morning.
‘However, one Saturday I was one minute late at my bank and it was closed. I had to ask my local garage to cash my cheque.
‘That night I started thinking that there must be a better way to get cash when I wanted it.’
He added: ‘I thought of the chocolate vending machine where money was put in a slot and a bar dispatched – surely money could be dispensed in the same way.’
Within two years, and after the intervention of his wife Caroline – who suggested a four-digit rather than six-digit personal identification number – the first cash dispensing machine was born.
In recent years the number of services that can be performed by a cash machine has grown, with consumers now able to check balances, order statements, pay bills and top up their mobile phones.
The total number of machines in existence around the world is expected to hit two million by 2010.
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