Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame

ATMsJames Goodfellow's invention transformed the way we get cash from banks worldwide.

James GoodfellowJames Goodfellow (born 1937), inventor and first patentor of the automated teller

Engineering achievements

In the early 1960's, banks in the UK wanted to close on Saturday mornings. A method had to be found to provide an acceptable level of service for customers who work during banking 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.

"My task was to design the means of allowing a customer, and only a genuine customer, to actuate the dispenser mechanism. 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."

This breakthrough was the pivotal invention that made a reality of the vision of people since the nineteen thirties. The Automatic Cash Dispenser / ATM 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.

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.

James contimued to generate innovative design ideas and leadership throughout his career, being twice a recipient of IBM's Outstanding Technical Achievement Award.

His Life

Age Event Year
Born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland 1937
16 Apprentice, Renfrew Electrical & Radio Engineers 1953
21 National Service - REME, designed mobile electronics workshop to support "Thunderbird" SAM 1958
24 Joined Kelvin Hughes (Smiths Industrial Division) as a Development Engineer 1961
27 Electronic Control Systems - Fairmont, West Virginia- 1 month 1964
27 Motorola Solid State Systems - Scottsdale, Arizona- 3 months 1964
28 Eastman Kodak - Kingsport, Tennessee- 2 weeks, installing experimental digital temperature control system. 1965
28 Began Cash Machine project. 1965
29 Cash Machine Patent applied for on 2 May1966
30 Joined IBM Greenock as a test engineer 1967
31 San Jose, California- 12 weeks, design of controller for the 5444 disc file system 1968
32 Uithoorn, Netherlands- 6 months, design of test equipment and methodology for the 1275 OCR cheque sorting system 1969
34 Endicott, NY- 14 months, assisting in design and build of the Multi Purpose Test System 1971
37 Design of "CADET" ( CArd Debug Evaluation Tester ) 1974
37 Awarded IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award 1974
41 Appointed Card test manager 1978
45 Appointed Engineering Laboratory manager 1982
51 Managed and worked on the design of Electro Magnetic Compatibility Laboratories 1988
51 Awarded IBM Outstanding Technical Achievement Award 1988
55 Retired 1992
57 Lay member of HMI - Schools 1994
63 UK Patent GB 2 303 945 Granted 16 August "Improvements in or relating to computers" 2000
69 Awarded OBE 2006
72 John Logie Baird award winner for "outstanding innovation" 2009
75 Placed third in the British Visionary Inventor award run by the Intellectual Property Office 2012
76 First inductee into Paymts.com Hall of Fame at Harvard University 2013
77 Honorary doctorate University of West of Scotland 2014
79 Inducted into Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame on 7 October 2016

His Legacy

What we now call the automated telling machine (ATM) spread throughout the world, and has been a transformative technology with an estimated 3 million machines. It has become an essential part of modern life, but although conceived in the 1930s as an idea, it took James Goodfellow's invention to make the concept a reality. He received £10 bonus from his employer for the invention. The ATM is listed in National Geographic's 2015 publication "100 events that changed the world", but wrongly naming another Scot, John Shepherd-Barron, whose claim in 2005 had been widely publicised but had prompted James Goodfellow to make his prior patents known, after which he was recognised with his OBE. James Goodfellow is now generally accepted as being the inventor of the ATM.

More recently, his 2000 patent for an LCD pad, A4 or Paperback size, wirelessly conected to a home PC, acting as dumb terminal, providing touch sensitive input and LCD display output remotely sounds very familiar.

More Information

James Goodfellow interviewed by John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme How the PIN Number was invented 2 May 2016
Subject of "Pioneers". BBC Radio Scotland first broadcast 2011.
The 'eureka moment' that led to the PIN: Inventor recalls how created the security system as it marks its 50th anniversary Daily Mail, 2 May 2016
Inventor of bank card Pin hit by lack of credit The Herald, 2 May 2016
James Goodfellow: Inventor of the PIN QE Prize website. Accessed 27 Sep 2016
Meet the Glasgow engineer who forever changed the way you handle your money Glasgow Live 2 May 2016
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme on 50th anniversary of first patent. 2 May 2016
Download: James Goodfellow's acceptance speech Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame, James Watt Dinner, 7 October 2016

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