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Barclays in London was the first bank to install in ATM in 1967 (Garry Knight/Flickr).
Barclays in London was the first bank to install in ATM in 1967 (Garry Knight/Flickr).

ATMs once the province of gamblers and prostitutes

Before they were a convenience accessible on almost every street corner, ATMs were a way for gamblers and prostitutes to get cash without having to deal with the embarrassment of facing a bank teller in person, according to Howard Bank’s official blog.

ATMs have been around for almost 50 years. In 1967, the first ATM was installed at a Barclay’s branch in London that was invented by John Shepherd-Barron of Scotland. Customers could withdraw £10, or $15, using paper vouchers with radioactive ink, a more primitive version of a debit card.

Before Shepherd-Barron came up with the idea for the money-dispensing machine, Luther Simjian, an American investor and businessman, made a Bankograph machine that could accept cash or check deposits 24/7. The machine came with a camera that took a photo of each deposit. However, that machine attracted a certain clientele — mainly gamblers and prostitutes, who wanted to be as low-key as possible about their financial transactions.

The first card-enabled ATM was installed in the United States in 1969 at a Chemical Bank branch on Long Island. The machine was installed by engineer and former professional basketball player, Donald Wetzel, according to the History Channel.

By the 1970s, ATMs were cropping up across the country. ATMs got their largest seal of approval when Citibank spent $100 million in 1977 to install the machines across New York City. The machines were a lifesaver in a blizzard that shut down the city that year, increasing ATM use by 20 percent. Today there are some 2 million ATMs worldwide.

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