Quick, guess when the first ATM (automatic teller machine) went into business. Wrong (probably). September 2, 1969, was the day the first ATM debuted (at Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, NY). According to the bank’s advertisement: “On Sept. 2 our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again.”
The first ATM was called Docuteller, invented by Don Wetzel at Docutel (Docutel also figured out how to automate baggage handling).
“But wait!” you say, “I have never heard of Chemical Bank—they must have closed.” Wrong again, young padawan. Chemical bought Chase and chose to take the Chase name. But this is about ATMs and not about Chemical or Chase.
At first ATMs were less than widely successful, mostly because they were less than widely available, mostly because they were less than widely cheap. However, the cost went down and acceptance went up and by the 1980s there were more ATMs than butterflies. There is even an ATM at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The penguins find this very helpful when they leave home without enough pebbles in their pockets.
Eventually (and by “eventually” I mean in the greedy 1990s), banks figured out that they could charge people to use ATMs. Customers loved this added benefit (and by “loved” I mean would have started a revolution if social media had been invented then).
Today, a new ATM is born every 5 minutes. There are rumors that we won’t need ATMs in the future because we have cell phones and clever college students have figured out how to do 90% of their banking through their phones (including check deposit and getting mom to transfer money). What the clever college students haven’t yet figured out is how to get their phones to dispense cash. Once they figure that out, well. I can think of several things that will change in the universe.
Yes, I transferred the money we talked about.