2018-06-27 / Editorials

Technology rolls on

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

Editor’s Note: The following column is a reprint from the June 28, 2017, edition of the News. Ready to feel old today? The ATM machine, a device nearly all of us use in our daily lives, just turned 50 years old. That doesn’t seem possible.

The first ATM machine was used in 1967 at a Barclays branch in Enfield, in north London. No longer did you need your bank to be open to withdraw money. If, say, you found yourself in need of 20 bucks at 2 in the morning to pay your bar tab, the ATM machine was there for you.

I remember the first time I used an ATM machine. It was about 1990 – the device was nearly 25 years old by then – and the bank I used in Macon offered its customers a card that looked like a credit card, but could only be used to withdraw cash from a checking account.

I was leery of the ATM card, much like I was about all technology that dealt with my money. I refused to use direct deposit until the newspaper required us to.

Back then, I liked going to the bank. I liked handing my paycheck to a smiling teller to deposit in my checking account.

“Good morning. I’d like to deposit my paycheck,” I’d say to the teller.

“Certainly, Mr. Clarke,” and then she’d punch a few keys on an adding machine and she’d write out a receipt for me. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Remember customer service?

Banks were serious. They were quiet. Tellers spoke in low voices. I was never sure why it was quiet. It’s not like the money was going to be disturbed if the tellers shouted.

Later, the ATM card became a debit card, which customers can use to pay for purchases at any place that accepts credit cards, as well as to withdraw cash from their checking and savings accounts. You could also use the ATM machine to make deposits to your accounts.

Today, as technology continues to roll rapidly forward, you can download an app to your smartphone that allows you to pay bills, transfer money to other accounts and actually make deposits.

Yep, you can make a deposit on your phone by taking a photo of your check and submitting it electronically to the bank.

I haven’t been inside a bank in more than a year. They may not be quiet anymore. For all I know, they’re throwing a big ol’ party every day in there.

I don’t write checks anymore. The last time I bought a box of checks was about four years ago, and I have more than half the box left. I use my debit card for nearly all my purchases, and I seldom carry much cash with me.

Apparently, I’m not alone. As the ATM machine turns 50, there’s a question of whether it will soon be extinct. Although there are more than 400,000 ATM machines in the U.S. and nearly 94 percent of Americans use them regularly, there are places that are moving quickly toward a cashless economy.

In Sweden, for instance, businesses often frown upon people using cash. Some businesses won’t take cash, opting instead for card and mobile payments. In fact, in 2015, only 2 percent of transactions in Sweden involved cash.

I can’t see the U.S. become a cashless economy any time soon. Then again, I would have laughed at you five years ago if you said I’d pay my power bill on my phone.

Technology rolls on, doesn’t it?

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke@gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/mitch.

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