The man who invented the first ATM cash machine has died, aged 84, after a short illness John Shepherd-Barron came up with the concept of a self-service cash dispenser in 1965 while lying in a bath after getting to his bank too late to withdraw money.
The businessman, who worked for the printing firm De La Rue Instruments at the time, said he was inspired by chocolate vending machines and put the idea to the head of Barclays Bank “over a pink gin”.
The first automated teller machine (ATM) was installed at a branch in Enfield, London, in 1967, when Reg Varney, one of the stars of the television show On the Buses, became the first person to withdraw cash.
It was operated by inserting a special cheque that was matched against a PIN number, and paved the way for machines using plastic cards. There are now nearly two million machines worldwide.
Mr Shepherd-Barron, from Portmahomack, Easter Ross, died in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, on Saturday.
He did not patent his system and did not make any money from his invention, but was made an OBE in 2005 for his services to banking. He was also presented with a lifetime achievement award by the ATM Industry Association. D
escribing his “eureka” moment, he once said: “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. “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 slot and a bar dispatched. Surely money could be dispensed in the same way.
“By chance, in 1965, I bumped into the chief general manager of Barclays Bank who was about to have lunch. I said, over a pink gin, ‘Give me 90 seconds’. “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 round the clock.” The planned six-digit PIN was later changed to four because the inventor said his wife Caroline could only remember four figures.
Mr Shepherd-Barron became managing director of De La Rue Instruments, which was involved in the printing of more than 140 currencies, as well as stock certificates.
He married Caroline Murray, the daughter of Sir Kenneth, the former chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the couple moved to his Easter Ross estate when he retired.
He is survived by his wife, three sons and six grand-children.
James Goodfellow, another Scottish inventor, patented PIN technology and has a rival claim to be the inventor of the ATM. He was a development engineer given the project of developing a cash dispenser in 1965.
His system accepted an encrypted card and a numerical keypad – like the machines in use today – but his machine was tested later than one developed by Mr Shepherd-Barron.