A brief click, four beeps and a clatter. The sounds made by an automated teller machine (ATM) are nothing unusual, but the process behind these sounds involves more than you might first expect. Since withdrawing money from an ATM machine is fully automated, most of us don’t think much about the process, but in today’s blog we will explore another surprising use of conveyor belts, this time, the belts rolling behind the scenes to deliver cash safely into the hands of every customer.
It was not so long ago that people were initially suspicious of the new money machines. ATMs first appeared in New York in 1939, and after just six months, the machines were taken away again. Some 40 years later, the threshold of inhibition had been overcome. In most countries, customers had become used to the machines. The sounds were unconsciously integrated into everyday life and were no longer such a daunting prospect. Since then, ATMs have given us banknotes around the clock.
A brief click
We are all familiar with the small slot bearing the inscription “Card”, sometimes surrounded by a green-flashing frame to make sure it’s never missed. Once the bank card is fully inserted, we hear a brief click, a sign that the ATM is starting its process. The first cash card, as we know it today, was developed over 50 years ago by a British man called James Goodfellow. The principle is a simple one. The customer’s data is stored on a chip or magnetic strip and then encrypted by a personal identification number. A card reader sends the data from the chip to a computer. This concept eased the ATM’s entry into everyday life. From then on, all you needed to withdraw cash was the card.
The cash withdrawal process continues via the bank’s host computer. The data is transmitted from the card, and the customer is prompted to enter a four-digit combination – one beep for each digit. The computer processes the data in the background completely unnoticed.
Initially, the early ATMs were located only in bank branches, but that was soon to change. The proverbial “hole in the wall” is literally a hole in the wall filled by an ATM. This clever location means it is also accessible from the outside. ATMs continue their triumphal success outside of bank branches. In shopping malls, gas stations, airports and train stations, they emerge as the last resort for accessing cash.
The moment everyone waits for is the clatter. The sound of cash making its way out of the ATM. The bank card is returned. And the loud rattle, which also means the machine tapes or round belts are in service, begins. Unless the individual banknotes are reliably transported, the ATM would not be able to function. From the customers’ perspective, they perform the most important task in the entire process: Habasit belts move the banknotes from a strongbox straight into the hands of the account holder. They ensure, through their optimal surface structure, that notes do not get stuck, jammed or damaged.
Three sounds, which we hear unconsciously hear every time, substantiate the ATM success story. A brief click, four beeps, a rattle – and in the background our belts are pulling the strings.