Join The Party: The ATM Celebrates Its 50th Birthday

It’s hard to imagine life before ATMs. Read how they have transformed from simple “cash machines” to full-functioning mini branches where you can manage almost any transaction.

The next time you make that mad dash for cash by visiting a convenient automated teller machine, think about these little-known ATM fun facts:

  • The man credited with inventing the first ATM in England, it is said, came up with the idea while taking a bath;
  • There are 3 million ATMs all over the world. Antarctica, Northern Lapland (above the Arctic Circle), Fiji and Easter Island are among the most exotic locations with ATMs;
  • Each hour, there are 11.3 million ATM transactions worldwide; each month, more than 30 million total transactions are conducted at PNC ATMs;
  • Each minute, $420,000 U.S. dollars are withdrawn from ATMs all over the world;
  • In March 2017, PNC ATMs dispensed $2.9 billion of cash – the highest amount ever recorded by the bank in a single month; and
  • The ATM is celebrating its 50th birthday!

On June 27, 1967, the first ATM began operating in a London, England suburb.  From that point forward, the capabilities of the ATM have evolved to make it an integral part of everyday life.

Consider that Millennials, currently the generation with the highest population in the U.S. today, have never known a world without ATMs. They don’t remember a time when people rushed to a bank branch for a withdrawal before it closed on Friday afternoon or be stuck without cash all weekend.

Ken Justice, who has worked in the ATM world for 35 years and heads PNC Bank’s network – the  fourth largest among banks in the U.S. – has seen the machines and their capabilities significantly transform through the years.

“The first ATM I ever worked with back in 1982 did not remotely resemble what we see today,” Justice said. “Other than dispensing cash and accepting deposits, you wouldn’t recognize it now. The functionality has advanced light years. Virtually everything you can do at a teller window you can now do at an ATM.”

old drive up MAC machine
Early machines had just basic functions such as cash withdrawal and deposits.

Justice points to a number of key milestones in the advancement of the ATM, including: upgraded software and hardware in the 1980s that vastly improved reliability; the huge proliferation in ATMs located off of bank property and the introduction of networks, such as “MAC” machines in the 1990s; and imaging software in the early 2000s that made it possible to read deposited checks for faster availability of funds in one day, as opposed to several.

“It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a day when you had to use envelopes to deposit money and branch employees had to count it before you received credit for the transaction. That was little better than a night depository,” Justice said.

Paralleling the rapid expansion of networks, PNC’s own network has grown enormously. The first known ATM of a PNC predecessor bank was put into service in Cleveland by National City Bank in 1971. Today, PNC manages approximately 9,000 units located in 21 states and the District of Columbia, and its network continues to grow. PNC’s focus is on convenience, so about half the total network is located outside of bank properties, including convenience stores, stadiums, train stations and college campuses.

comparison of old and new ATMs
The modern ATM allows customers to deposits checks and cash without envelopes, receive receipts by email, make balance inquiries and transfer money between accounts. Later this year you will be able to use the ATM without a card.

Given the rapid advances of the past 50 years, consumers should expect much more to come, such as the ability to remotely set up a transaction without using a card and choosing bill denominations.

“We’ve seen much conversation about a so-called cashless society, but all indications point to the fact that use of cash is increasing, not decreasing. We also know that while the use of mobile banking is becoming more popular and likely will grow exponentially in the coming years, the need for the ATM won’t change anytime soon,” Justice said.

The Friday afternoon frantic rush to the branch teller may be a thing of the past and thanks to new technology we’ll see even more benefits from the ATM as technology take additional leaps.

Bank on it.

Learn More & Find a PNC ATM Near You »

Ken Justice

Ken Justice says all indications point to the fact that use of cash is increasing, not decreasing
ATMs have become so ingrained in every American’s lifestyle, most cannot remember a time when they didn’t exist. And they are becoming even more valuable with continuing advances in technology. -Ken Justice

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