NEW YORK (AP) — ATMs turn 50 years old this year. They’re ubiquitous, and possibly still a necessity, despite the big changes in how people pay for things.
It was a radical move when Barclays installed cash machines in a London suburb in 1967. The utilitarian machine gave fixed amounts of money, using special vouchers — the magnetic-striped ATM card hadn’t been invented yet. There was no way for a customer to transfer money between accounts, and bank employees tabulated the transactions manually at the end of each day.
As the ATMs became familiar, though, they changed not only the banking industry but made people comfortable interacting with kiosks in exchange for goods.
Now that means getting movie tickets and boarding passes, self-checkout at grocery stores, and online shopping that brings products to your door with a few clicks. All are based on the idea that people can handle routine transactions without a teller or cashier.
“The ATM tapped into that innate force in people that gives gratification for doing a task on their own, and it grew from there,” said Charles Kane, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
It was a radical concept at the time. The ATM wasn’t the first self-service device — vending machines and the automat had been popular before. But those dispensed specific items, while ATMs opened a wide range of buying opportunities.