In case you care, the first ATM machine was installed outside a branch of Barclays Bank in London in 1967. Waiting to use one today, I was thinking how far we have come in the last 40 years. Oh, alright, 38 years.
In the early days, an ATM dispensed a fixed amount of money when you inserted a special punched card, and that was it. Now you can do almost anything you want using an ATM, and consequently I often find myself stuck in a queue behind people who are paying five bills, transferring money to three different accounts (written on the back of their hand or scribbled on a scrap of paper), and carefully checking the balance on their account before deciding to withdraw HK$200. Couldn’t do that in 1967, you know (not that I was using an ATM machine in 1967, I hasten to add).
Today I duly waited in line for my turn behind someone who had two different ATM cards and was seemingly transferring money from one account to the other, then inserting the second card just to check that the money had arrived safely. As you do...
Which would all have been fine, except that when it was my turn I inserted my card to be greeted with the message that the machine had run out of money. Of course, if everyone used the ATM to withdraw cash then it would soon be obvious that this machine had a problem and no-one would bother queuing up there, but now that you can do so much else it hardly matters that a cash machine can't actually dispense cash.
Such is progress.