The invention and history of ATM – some interesting and fun facts!

Oct 4, 2023

History of ATMs

As customers of Loomis’s ATM will already know, our ATM services are designed to give you maximum efficiency and profit. Whether you’re a bank that needs to provide ATM customers with an efficient, round-the clock service, or you’re an Independent ATM Deployer (IAD) for whom every cash withdrawal affects the bottom line, our service is here to give you results.

From installation, to maintenance and replenishment – our comprehensive ATM service is rapidly becoming first choice for banks and independent ATM deployers alike.

Like many things in everyday life, the ATM is something we all very much take for granted - but have you ever wondered about the history of  the ‘hole in the wall’? Here are some interesting, fun facts which might come in useful for your next pub quiz! It’s a quite a long read, but worth it we think.

So, imagine yourself in the early 1960’s. Instead of popping to a machine in the wall, you have to go into a bank every time you need cash and withdraw cash over the counter. At times that must have been quite frustrating – imagine spontaneously deciding to go out one evening but realising that you have no cash and all the banks are closed!

The Idea

Thankfully, a Scot (and inventor) named John Shepherd-Barron experienced the same frustration. When in the bath one evening, he came up with a stunning but simple idea. What if chocolate dispensers could dispense cash? Instead of Fry’s Chocolate Cream a handful of cash would pop out! Shepherd-Barron later stated "It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world or the UK. I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash”.

It’s not recorded if he shouted ‘eureka’, but Shepherd-Barron did immediately get in touch with at least one bank – Barclays.

Negotiation & Installation

The Barclays boss was quick in signing a contract with Shepherd-Barron - what a notable part of history that turned out to be!

The development was fast tracked with Shepherd-Barron (of printing firm De La Rue) leading the engineering team and Barclays installed the world’s first ATM in their branch in Enfield, London on 27th June 1967.

Shepherd-Barron was awarded an OBE in the 2005 New Year Honours.

As an aside, for those that remember him, Reg Varney – bus driver Stan in On The Buses – was the first person ever to withdraw cash from an ATM.

The Technicalities

Back in the late 60’s, with bank cards not yet invented, people had to use a cheque-like piece of paper to withdraw money. It was inserted into the ATM and recognised as genuine due to containing radioactive substance Carbon14 which provided readability and security.

Apparently Shepherd-Barron – presumably after being repeatedly questioned on the safety of this – calculated that you’d need to eat 136,000 of these cheques for the radiation to have an effect at all on your body!

In 1970, with engineer James Goodfellow’s invention of the personal identification number (PIN), the self-service banking technology was born.

Transatlantic Growth

The ATM was obviously a revolutionary invention and the number of machines quickly grew exponentially across the world. The first ATM in the USA was installed on 2nd September 1969 in the Rockville Centre, New York branch of Chemical Bank. No longer bound to banking hours when they just needed some cash, customers widely embraced ATMs.


As the ATM became more popular, developers looked for ways of enhancing the product; developments have been fairly continuous since the first installation and are still happening to this day.

The first “modern ATM” was commissioned by Lloyds Banking Group and made by IBM, the first being installed on Brentwood High Street, Essex, UK in December 1972. The IBM 2984 Cash Issuing Terminal was a true ATM similar in function to today's machines and named Cashpoint by Lloyds Bank.

Cashpoint is still a registered trademark of Lloyds Banking Group in the UK but is often used as a generic trademark to refer to ATMs of all UK banks.

By 1984, there were 100,000 ATMs installed globally. And, the growth since then has been huge - both in the amount of installed ATMs and what they can do for banking customers.

Now, with 3.2 million ATMs across the globe, the ATM is the most-used method for consumers to interact physically with their bank. And the technology can do much more than dispense cash - today, you can walk up to one and handle all kinds of financial services.

Interesting little fact here; the world's highest ATM is located at the Khunjerab Pass in Pakistan. Installed at an elevation of 4,693 metres (15,397 ft) by the National Bank of Pakistan it is designed to work in temperatures as low as -40-degree Celsius.

So, what does the future hold for the ATM? One thing is clear: this channel will remain extremely important and continue to evolve, even though the use of contactless and mobile wallets has reduced consumer reliance on cash in some markets.

Customers will have access to an ever-expanding range of services at the ATM, from core functions like paying bills and transferring money between accounts, to buying stamps, subway tickets and gift certificates. Video conferencing with human tellers is also likely to become more widely available for people who want to complete more complex transactions at the ATM.

As far as security is concerned, biometric authentication (via facial recognition and fingerprints) is something consumers can expect to see more of, along with improvements in software to combat evolving cyber threats.

The emergence and development of the ATM over the past five decades has had a transformative effect on the banking industry. Now it’s time to look forward to what the channel can achieve in the decades to come - and for FIs to plan and implement a solid ATM plan that best serves their customers.

What does seem certain is that the ATM - something that started as an idea that came to a man while taking a bath - will continue to meet consumers’ expectations for easy, convenient and digital first banking services well into the future.

Would you like Loomis to manage your ATM needs? Take a look at our ATM Services to learn more...

Contact us – we are here to help

New Business Enquiries


Customer Support

Contact the Customer Services Team using the support form
or call 0845 309 6419
(Calls to Loomis on this number include an access charge of 2p per minute PLUS your network provider’s standard call rate).

Contact us – we are here to help

Find out how Loomis can help you cut costs while improving security and accuracy.

Contact us