Who invented the ATM? Part 2

atm inventer / who invented the atm?

The James Goodfellow Story:

by A.W. Miller, ATMmachine.com, from James Goodfellow


In the early 1960's, banks in the UK were under pressure from employee trade unions for access to banking during normal working hours. Banks wanted to be closed on Saturday mornings shortening the work week. Since banks were already closing during the week at 3.00pm each day, a method had to be found to provide an acceptable level of service for customers who work during banking hours. No bank service on Saturdays and closing the bank two hours before most people leave work was starting to be unacceptable to modern work hours. An automatic cash dispenser was seen as the solution, a concept that had been around since the thirties. As a Development engineer with Smiths Industries Ltd, James Goodfellow was given the Project in 1965. Chubb Lock & Safe Co. were to provide the secure physical housing and the mechanical dispenser mechanism.
According to Mr. Goodfellow, "My task was to design the means of allowing a customer, and only a genuine customer, to actuate the dispenser mechanism. I reviewed many techniques, which may have achieved this aim. Areas researched included fingerprints, voice recognition, retinal patterns, card intrinsic value equal to value of money issued. Magnetic strip, on line operation, imbedded resistive network on the card etc. These approaches all foundered on technical feasibility / cost / bulk or just price / performance criteria. It was obvious that a new solution had to be found."

"Eventually I designed a system which accepted a machine readable encrypted card, to which I added a numerical keypad into which an obscurely related Personal Identification Number had to be entered manually, by the customer. This PIN was known only to the person to whom the card was issued. When these two inputs were decoded, their correspondence was checked by the system. If card and keypad inputs agreed, the cash dispenser mechanism was activated and the appropriate money was fed out to the customer."

Thanks to James Goodfellow, this breakthrough was the pivotal invention that made a reality of the vision of people since the nineteen thirties. The idea of an Automatic Cash Dispenser / ATM. It proved to be a viable, practical machine. Both simple to use for the customer and secure for the banks, with low initial cost and high reliability.

"I preferred the card to be returned to the customer on completion of the transaction. However the banks insisted on retaining the card as a “receipt” for the money issued. There was not a lot of confidence in having only an electronic record in 1965. As far as I know this two part security system is still the vehicle for accessing all ATMs. This has recently been introduced as a method of verification of Credit Card sales."

UK Patent No.1,197,183 with a priority date of May 2 1966, covers this invention. It is also covered by US Patent No.3,905,461 and Patents granted by many other countries. These Patents named James Goodfellow as inventor, along with the late A.I.O.Davies, the company General Manager.

This US Patent still describes the basic ATM function almost 40 years later. These Machines were marketed by Chubb Ltd and installed nationwide in the UK during the late 60s and early 70s.


"I did invent, design, build and prove the coded card plus PIN method of verifying that a legitimate customer, and only a legitimate customer, was accessing the machine, and on successful verification activated the dispenser to issue cash.

This surely was the forerunner of all today's one million Automatic Cash Dispensers / ATMs."


James Goodfellow, KCHS, I.Eng., FIIE

Retired Engineering Laboratory Manager


(Update: In 2006, James Goodfellow was awarded the appointment of OBE by the Queen of England,
in recognition of developing the personal identification number (Pin) concept for cash machines and his service to banking.
He becomes an OBE. Officer of the Order of the British Empire.)
Our congratulations to James Goodfellow, OBE

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Copyright ©1998-2011
John D. White and James Goodfellow transcripts were written to ATMmachine.com.
A reference credit should be given to ATMmachine.com or a link back.

1. Research by ATMmachine.com
2. NMAH interview, 1995
3. John D. White
4. James Goodfellow, KCHS, I.Eng., FIIE