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08/11/2010 / craigmartinallen

The Inventor


John Shepherd-Barron: Inventor of the hole-in-the-wall cash dispenser

By David McKittrick 25 May 2010

It was a Scottish inventor, John Shepherd-Barron, who realised the concept of a self-service machine that could be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to withdraw cash from one’s own bank account. His wife persuaded him to use a four-digit PIN number rather than six because she thought it would be easier to remember. In 2005, Shepherd-Barron was awarded the OBE for his services to banking ‘as inventor of the automatic cash dispenser.’

Marking the 40th anniversary, the inventor said, “I am delighted that the cash machine is still going strong. I remember back in 1965 that I would always take money out of my bank on a Saturday morning. However, one Saturday I was one minute late at my bank and it was closed. I had to ask my local garage to cash my cheque.”

“That night I started thinking that there must be a better way to get cash when I wanted it. I thought of the chocolate vending machine where money was put in a lot and a bar dispatched – surely money could be dispensed in the same way. Within two years my idea had become reality and we opened the first cash machine at Barclays in Enfield.”

Forty years on, there are 60,000 cash machines in the UK dispensing around £300m of cash on a quiet day such as Sunday and up to £700m on a busy day, typically a Friday. It can even be argued that cash machines play a vital public service role and forms an essential part of the UK infrastructure. And, to think, that it all started in Enfield.


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