[LINK] RIP The Maker of the First ATM / Cash Dispenser
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed May 26 13:32:23 AEST 2010
[For once, it appears that the US may actually have conceded that
someone outside the USA was responsible for an invention and its
Bathtime brainwave that changed banking
Date: May 26 2010
The Sydney Morning Herald
Obituary, reprinted from The [London] Daily Telegraph
John Shepherd-Barron, 1925-2010
John Shepherd-Barron once explained that he came up with the idea of
cash dispensers, or ATMs, in 1965 while lying in his bath after
finding his bank closed. It was then the Scot's habit to withdraw
money on a Saturday, but on this weekend he had arrived one minute
late and found the bank doors locked.
Later that year, he bumped into the chief general manager of Barclays
Bank who was about to have lunch. Over a pink gin, Shepherd-Barron
asked him for 90 seconds to pitch his idea for a cash machine.
''I told him I had an idea that if you put your standard Barclays
cheque through a slot in the side of the bank, it will deliver
standard amounts of money around the clock.
''He said, 'Come and see me on Monday morning'.''
Barclays commissioned Shepherd-Barron to build six cash dispensers,
the first of which was installed at a branch in the north London
suburb of Enfield on June 27, 1967. The actor Reg Varney, star of the
TV comedy On the Buses, was on hand to be the first to withdraw cash.
As part of his work in developing the self-service ATM, which would
dispense banknotes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Shepherd-Barron
also came up with the idea of a four-digit PIN, which subsequently
transformed the way people across the world handle financial
Recalling his army number, he had originally intended to make
personal identification numbers six digits long, but reduced the
number to four when his wife, Caroline, complained that six was too
''Over the kitchen table, she said she could only remember four
figures, so because of her, four figures became the world standard,''
With plastic bank cards bearing magnetic strips still to be invented,
Shepherd-Barron's early machines used cheques that were chemically
coded by being impregnated with carbon-14, a mildly radioactive
substance. Customers placed the cheque in a drawer, the machine
detected the material and matched the cheque against a PIN before
paying out a maximum of £10 a time. ''But that was regarded then as
quite enough for a wild weekend,'' he noted.
Asked about health fears, Shepherd-Barron calculated that a user
would have to eat 136,000 chemically treated cheques to suffer any
In 1950 he joined the De La Rue firm of stationers and banknote
printers as a management trainee, and worked his way up as what he
liked to call an ''innovative entrepreneur'', focusing on the supply
of systems and services to the international banking industry. De La
Rue was involved in the printing of more than 140 currencies, as well
as stock certificates for the New York Stock Exchange.
The development of ATM technology can be traced to prewar New York,
where a mechanical device was installed at the City Bank in 1939. But
it was dismantled later the same year after customers showed little
interest. Today it is estimated that there are more than 1.7 million
ATMs around the world.
Shepherd-Barron was modestly sanguine about claims from others to
have invented the modern cash dispenser. ''I've never really thought
about being the inventor of the ATM,'' he remarked, ''but I built the
first one, put it in and made it work, so I would say that is
He did not make any money from what became one of the greatest
advances in banking convenience. But for his services to the
industry, and his work on ATMs in particular, he was awarded an OBE
Roger Clarke http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science Australian National University
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