ATM celebrates 50th birthday, first-ever cash machine goes golden to mark occasion

London: The automated teller machine (ATM) marked its 50th anniversary on Tuesday, with a British bank decorating the site of the world's first cashpoint in gold to mark the occasion.

The first ATM was unveiled by Barclays at their Enfield branch in north London on 27 June, 1967. "The invention of the ATM was a historical moment that completely changed the way the world thought about and used cash," Barclays said.

The original cash machine was the brainchild of John Shepherd-Barron, who was commissioned by the bank to create six cash dispensers. They were based on vending machines. Customers could access their money outside of banking hours — a mini-revolution on the high street. The first person to use the inaugural ATM was actor Reg Varney, the star of a popular British TV comedy called "On The Buses", brought in to show how easy it was to use.

The golden ATM in Enfield, UK. Reuters

The golden ATM in London. Reuters

The Barclays cashpoint in Enfield has been given a gold makeover, and a roped-off red carpet approach to celebrate the anniversary. A black-and-white picture of Varney using the ATM hangs above it, while a commemorative gold plaque has been placed on the bank wall.

There are now an estimated three million plus cash machines on the planet. The world's most southerly ATM is at the McMurdo Station research base on Antarctica, while the highest is at 4,693 metres in Pakistan's Khunjerab Pass near the Chinese border. There is an ATM inside the Forbidden City in Beijing, mobile ATMs on trucks, one on a golf buggy in the US state of Georgia and one in a Dubai hotel that dispenses gold bars.

Though other technologies such as mobile and online banking have come into play, the number of cash machines is expected to grow, with China and India driving the expansion.

The Payments UK trade association recently predicted that the rapid growth in the use of contactless cards means cash will be overtaken as Britain's most frequently-used payment method by the end of 2018. But in 10 years, it is still expected to make up around a fifth of all payments in Britain.

"Even though recent years have seen a huge uptake of digital banking and card payments, cash remains a crucial part of most people's day-to-day lives — whether it's paying for groceries or doing the office coffee run," said Raheel Ahmed, Barclays' head of customer experience.

The British record for the most cash withdrawn in a single day was broken last December as Christmas shoppers withdrew £730 million ($935 million), according to industry figures.

Updated Date: Jun 28, 2017 08:06 AM

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