The First ATM Opens – 1969


It happened on this day in 1969. The place was the Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. America’s first automatic teller machine (ATM) opened. They would soon revitalize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Today, ATMs are as indispensable to most people as cell phones and email.

I still struggle with ATMs. It seems to me my deposits and withdrawals need to be made at “my bank.” But this is the way of the world – convenience.

Unfortunately, ATMs have become a parable on life. We want everything simple and quick. And that’s okay – for the most part. We can microwave our food and our lives, most of the time. But there is one thing we can’t microwave or withdraw from the nearest ATM machine. It’s called character.

Character is built slowly. It cannot be rushed. Henry Ford said, “Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grievances which we endure help us in our marching onward.”


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