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Happy 40th birthday to the ATM
I didn't realize that the ATM has been around for 40 years until I saw this item in today's New York Times.|
It seems fitting that a ubiquitous piece of technology that everyone takes for granted celebrated its 40th birthday as people line up for the iPhone, the very height of the mania.
Yes, the A.T.M. turned 40 on Wednesday, if you count from the planting of one in a north London suburb, on June 27, 1967, as The Associated Press and others did. Now one stands in Antarctica, the A.P. said.
“The A.T.M. deserves an enormous amount of credit–or blame–for the way we live today,” Fortune magazine wrote in a meditation on the machine. But “it’s hard to know who to bestow it upon,” the magazine said, pointing to a debate over the father of the invention.
For its ubiquity in New York, credit is due to Walter B. Wriston, Citibank’s chairman in 1977, who placed a $100 million bet on “faceless boxes that spit out money,” an idea from his protege John S. Reed, who now leads the New York Stock Exchange.
A new report estimates more than 1,650,000 machines worldwide, but that’s not stopping a Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist from predicting that it is following the telephone booth into history.
“As financial institutions and retailers find more ways to make it easier to use plastic” — like the new “blink” technology that saves a swipe — people will need less cash, the columnist wrote. Also, mobile banking has caught on in South Africa and elsewhere for account inquiries, transfers and bill-paying.
Whether it stays or goes, one thing is for sure: the United States — the biggest market for A.T.M.’s in the world — has come a long way since 1985, when this headline ran in The New York Times: “A CHECK-WRITING NATION IGNORES THE DEBIT CARD.”