by Kevin Coupe

The Associated Press marks an important anniversary, noting that it is 50 years since the first ATM was installed. In the story, there is context not just for how those first machines operated, but the long-term implications:

“It was a radical move when Barclays installed cash machines in a London suburb in 1967,” the AP writes. “The utilitarian machine gave fixed amounts of money, using special vouchers — the magnetic-striped ATM card hadn’t been invented yet. There was no way for a customer to transfer money between accounts, and bank employees tabulated transactions manually at the end of each day.

“As the ATMs became familiar, though, they changed not only the banking industry but made people comfortable interacting with kiosks in exchange for goods. Now that means getting movie tickets and boarding passes, self-checkout at grocery stores, and online shopping that brings products to your door with a few clicks. All are based on the idea that people can handle routine transactions by themselves, without a teller or cashier … ATMs meant banks could be in thousands of places at once, not just in branches, and earn billions of dollars in fees from non-customers.”

This doesn’t even count the fact that ATMs have pretty much killed the traveler’s check business.

And here’s an interesting bit of info: “Around the U.S. today are roughly 3 million cash machines, according to the ATM Industry Association. Most are actually not owned by banks, but by private companies that install them at convenience stores, restaurants and bars.”

Wow. That’s what I call an Eye-Opener.