Futuristic 24-hour banking machines in the 1970s



ATMs have revolutionized banking overnight.

Customers could withdraw money at 10 p.m., make a deposit at midnight, or pay bills at 2 a.m.

If customers ran out of money, they no longer had to wait for a bank to open, collect money from a personal check, or borrow a few dollars from a friend.

Akron National Bank and Trust Co. introduced ATMs to the community in 1973 as the Anytime Banks, but it took a bit of coaxing before local residents trusted robots with their money.

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The company fitted a van with a working model and visited shopping malls and other public places to demonstrate the simplicity and convenience of “Anytime Banking”. The machine could perform more than 80% of the services normally available from human bankers, company spokespersons said.

“Soon you’ll be doing your banking whenever you want with a new kind of cashier who never sleeps and does almost everything our regular cashiers do. Except smile, ”the company announced. “Once our banks at any time are open, they will never close again. “

The Docutel Corp. of Dallas made the Akron Bank ATMs. In two years, the Texan company had built 800 machines for banks across the continent. There were only 1,200 ATMs nationwide in 1973.

Akron National Bank explains how to use an Anytime Bank ATM in this Beacon Journal ad dated May 2, 1973.

Specially encoded Master Charge cards, loaded with the appropriate account information, were inserted into a slot of the Anytime bank. Customers were required to enter an “individual identification code number,” which will soon be known as a personal identification number (PIN), before a transaction could begin.

“By pressing the right button, the individual can withdraw or deposit money in savings or checking accounts, make payments on loans or utility bills, transfer money from an account to another and even get a Master Charge cash advance, ”the Beacon Journal readers informed. .

If done correctly, the process took about a minute and the machine issued a receipt for the transaction.

To guard against theft, customers had three chances to enter the correct code. The machine gobbled up the card after the third bad attempt. This was a security measure against unscrupulous people trying to guess the codes of cards they were not allowed to use.

Too bad for the poor customers who just couldn’t remember their numbers. They had to return to the bank during opening hours to show ID and collect their cards.

The Docutel Corp. downplayed any concerns about crimes committed at ATMs in the middle of the night. The company’s ATMs have always been set up in “well-lit areas” which were always “well guarded by the police,” he noted.

“In their existence, there has never been a case of someone being stolen using the machine,” boasted Docutel spokesman Charley Alber. “The risk is too high, especially when the thief knows the area is well lit. “

Akron National Bank, formerly known as Akron Dime Bank and soon renamed BancOhio, installed machines at four strategic locations: 1546 W. Market St. in Wallhaven, 2150 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls, 3379 Manchester Road in Township from Coventry and inside the east entrance of Chapel Hill Shopping Center.

“We have the only banks in town that never close… the only banks in town that won’t make you stand in line or wait in your car,” the company said.

Bank of the future

He invited customers to visit the four branches during opening hours to see how the new machines were working. Employees would be happy to demonstrate the equipment. Customers from other banks were also welcome.

“It’s the bank of the future,” the company promised. “It’s open now at Akron National. All the time. From now on. Forever.”

Akron National had a monopoly on ATMs for three years as other banks waited to gauge the public interest. Business was slow at first.

While young people were more likely to try ATMs, many older customers were not interested. The company decided that some people didn’t want to apply for Master Charge cards to use a machine. In 1975, therefore, it began to issue Anytime Bank cards for use in ATMs. In 1976, the bank sent 35,000 cards to customers.

He held contests in November for customers to guess how many total trades were made each weekend on the four machines. Five people won $ 50 for making the closest guess without going over: Edward O. Allen, Mary Chadima, Margo Diaz, Erma Pettitt and William Wright. The correct answer was 1,184.

Encouraged by the growing interest in ATMs, Akron National added ATMs at five more branches.

Reluctant customers

Yet there was public reluctance. In 1977, Charles Nesbitt, vice president of marketing at Akron National, told the Beacon Journal that there were four categories of people who avoided ATMs:

• People who went to a bank not only to do business, but also to socialize with cashiers because they liked “just to do business with a cashier,” he said.

• People who were intimidated by most new machines and feared making a mistake that “will not be recoverable”.

• People “concerned with proof, who want to see a transaction carried out before their eyes by another person”.

• People who “resist anything that makes it easy to take money out of the bank,” the same customers who avoided credit cards because they feared gorging and overspending.

Despite corporate high hopes, ATMs were not crime-free areas. Criminals have adapted well to the new market, holding back customers, smashing machines and trying to tear them from the walls.

The machines also had quirks. Every once in a while you would read one that gave away free money or changed someone. A new etiquette has developed on the proximity with which customers have to stand behind someone while waiting at an ATM.

In the late 1970s, the deadlock broke when ATMs were accepted by the public. ATM makers Diebold, IBM, NCR, and Docutel clashed over domestic business as most banks added the futuristic ATMs.

Variety of brand names

BancOhio had nearly 100 Anytime Bank ATMs in 1980. Other banks that had been left on the sidelines have joined in, offering a proliferation of brands.

A green machine waits for a client in 1986 at the Society National Bank in Akron.

Akron’s First National Bank had Freedom 24, National City Bank had Money Center, Bank One had Jubilee, Fifth Third Bank had Jeanie, Society National Bank had Green Machine, Ohio Savings had Wizard, United Bank had Owl, Huntington Bank had Handy-Bank and First National Bank of Cincinnati had Tellerific.

There were drive-thru ATMs and talking ATMs. With ATM networks, customers could use machines in other states and other nations.

The National City Bank offered the Money Center in 1986.

Akron National was ahead of its time, but it is no longer with us. National City Bank acquired BancOhio in 1984. PNC acquired National City in 2008.

For decades, experts have predicted a “cashless society” as younger generations move away from paper money in favor of digital transactions. Despite the popularity of credit cards, internet banking, and cryptocurrency, there are still over 400,000 ATMs in the United States.

It is the bank of the future. It’s open now.

All the time. From now on. Forever?

Mark J. Price can be contacted at [email protected]

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