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The Quick 10: 10 ATM Statements

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On June 27, 1967, the world experienced a wonderful and dangerous thing: the first automated teller machine. Well, sort of - exactly who invented it and when the first "official" ATM was invented is a bit of a debate, especially amongst those in the industry. I bet you didn't know there were hot-button issues in the automated teller machine industry. Read on to find out what they are!

1. The first ATM isn't the one we're celebrating, but an earlier, unsuccessful model. Designed by Luther George Simjian, Citibank (then "City Bank of New York") installed the primitive prototype for a six-month trial period. It was removed, though, because the people that used it weren't the exactly the bank's ideal customers. Simjian later wrote, "It seems the only people using the machines were a small number of prostitutes and gamblers who didn't want to deal with tellers face to face." Although his ATM flopped, Simjian didn't stop inventing: his later creations included a flight simulator for WWII, a type of postage meter and a self-posing portrait camera.

reg2. The second first ATM is obviously NOT the first ATM, but it's the one that people largely consider as such because of its success. It was installed in Enfield Town, North London, by Barclay's Bank. This version was invented (maybe) by John Shepherd-Barron, who was awarded an OBE for his trouble in 2005. We have his wife to thank for our four-digit PINs - originally they were six, but she couldn't remember that many numbers and requested that the length be changed.
3. James Goodfellow is another claimant to the title of ATM inventor. The battle between Goodfellow and Shepherd-Barron has been going on since the '60s and has heated up within the past few years thanks to Shepherd-Barron's OBE. Goodfellow got one of his own for inventing the PIN. But Goodfellow says the whole kit and kaboodle was his invention:

"For him to go down in history as the inventor of the ATM really stuck in my throat," says Goodfellow. "It is one thing for him to be awarded an OBE for services to the banking industry, but not for him to be portrayed as the inventor of the ATM. I have never bothered with this thing for 40 years, so it was a shock when it said he invented it. It's not sour grapes. He invented a radioactive device to withdraw money. I invented an automated system with an encrypted card and a pin number, and that's the one that is used around the world today."

Shepherd-Barron responded, "I don't know him, so good luck to the fellow, but it's clear that the difference between Goodfellow and us was that we thought through the whole system concept, and that was important to the banks who bought it. His invention reminds me of the hovercraft, an elegant failure. They didn't think through the performance specification for the hovercraft - it could work in three-feet waves, but not five feet, which is why it didn't become the global success it could have been."

citi4. And a third claimant is Texan Don Wetzel, who invented what most resembles the ATM we know today - the kind that accepts deposits and transfers money from account to account. He thought of the idea while in line at the bank on his lunch hour - he wasted a good portion of his break standing there and thought, "I bet a machine could do this a lot faster." And if you consider that the first ATM, as some experts do, then the first ATM was installed by Chemical Bank in Long Island on September 2, 1969. They advertised the new technology by declaring, "On Sept. 2, our bank will open at 9:00 and never close again!"

5. You know those $1.50 ($2.50... $3.50...) fees you pay to use an ATM other than one that belongs to the company who issued your card? Those fees and other similar fees add up to a $4 billion industry.

mcmurdo6. The world's most northerly ATM is in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway and the most southerly ATM is at McMurdo Station in Antarctica (pictured... not too exciting, is it?).

7. Depending on where you are, you might not call it an ATM. You might call it a MAC machine, a Bancomat, an "All Time Money," a Banklink or a Drink-link (both from Ireland; the latter is slang because they are used to withdraw money for bars so often).

8. You may or may not be surprised to know that most ATMs run on Windows, although Linux is also becoming commonly used. And maybe it's a good idea, because people are finding ways to hack into the Windows program.

9. In 2005, people flocked to an ATM in France when it was discovered that it was stocked incorrectly. As a result, the machine issued 50-euro notes when users requested 20-euro notes. But it didn't work: the bank kept track of everyone who had withdrawn money during that particular timeframe and requested that the customers make up the difference.

10. The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, for their part, regards the 1969 invention as the first ATM, as the company that made it was the first to apply for a patent. Those in the industry apparently just call it the "first modern magstripe machine." I know, who knew was so much controversy over ATMs?

And if you ever wondered how an ATM works, here you go.

Do you call it an ATM or something else? When I lived in Philadelphia for a year, I had a part-time job at Sephora, mostly for the discount. When people would wander in and ask about the MAC machine, I had no clue what they were talking about for the longest time.

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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]


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