The modern cash machine was created during the early 1970’s. Until then , a few banks had cash dispensers which worked like drinks machines and gave out packets of money. Today (1990’s) there are 16,000 cash machines in Britain, 2,600 of which have been installed in the last year  and in the United States there are 80,000. Britain has the fourth highest number of machines in the world.

The height of the modern cash machines is designed to be comfortable for most people. The keyboard is positioned so that it is easy to use for both right and left-handed people. The machines enable  customers to carry out various banking transactions.

To be able to do this, every customer needs to have a special plastic card issued by the bank. There is a magnetic strip on the back of the plastic card. This is made up of three tracks, similar to three strips of the cassette tape. The first track contains your name, the second has bank information (such as your account number), and the third track has more details about you.

A card reader, like a tape recorder, reads the magnetic strip when the card is put into the machine. The information is sent to the bank’s central computer, often  hundreds of miles away.

While this is taking place, the personal identification number (PIN) is typed in by the customer using the keyboard. The information is checked by the computer and if it is correct, a message is sent back to the machine allowing you to use it. To withdraw money, the amount needed is typed in. This information is  sent to the computer holding details of the customer’s account.

After the bank account has been checked to see if there is enough money, the cash is given out. About £100,000 is held inside each cash machine.



(This article was written in 1990’s. We want to see the world from 90’s)


A. What do the following refer to?
1. ‘then* (line 2):
2. This’ (line 13):
3. This information’ (line 24):

B. Fill in the blanks.
Number of cash machines:
a) In Britain: _
b) In the U.S.:
Information on the magnetic strip:
a) Track 1
b) Track 2
c) Track 3
Amount of money inside each cash machine:

1. What is the difference between the modern cash machines and the cash dispensers used before 1970’s?
2. What is the function of a plastic card?
3. Where is the card reader located?


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