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Shepherd-Barron, 84, Inventor of ATM, Was a Printer

May 21, 2010
LONDON—It seems the printing community is rich in creativity. Only weeks after the death of Harold Berliner, the author of the Miranda Warning who once owned a print shop, the industry marks the passing of another innovative printer. John Shepherd-Barron, 84, the Scotsman credited with inventing the world's first automated teller machine (ATM), has died.

Born in India to Scottish parents, Mr. Shepherd-Barron worked for banknote printer De La Rue. But his fame arrived as a result of getting shut out of his bank without being able to make a cash withdraw. Admittedly, his masterful idea was somewhat borrowed.

"It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world," he told the BBC in a 2007 interview that marked the ATM's 40th anniversary. "I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash."

The first machine appeared in a north London suburb in 1967. The early machines would read chemically coded checks and dispense out money after users entered a four-digit personal identification number (PIN). Mr. Shepherd-Barron had wanted to use a six-digit code, but his wife, Caroline, told him that six numbers would be too many to remember.

While not initially well received in the United States, Mr. Shepherd-Barron's invention soon took hold. A slew of other rival ATM designs were later introduced. Back in 2004, Queen Elizabeth honored him for contributions to the banking community.

 

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