MADISON, Wis. (9/2/10)--Despite predictions of a “cashless society,” credit unions shouldn’t neglect their ATM channels, according to data from Ovum, a New York-based unit of Datamonitor group (paymentssource.com July 20). Although debit and mobile is growing, the overall number of payments is rising as well, and the number of people increasing, said the company. Today, there are more than two million ATMs in service worldwide ( Fox Nebraska Aug. 30). There are roughly 300,000 to 400,000 ATMs in the U.S., Jim Block, Diebold director of advanced development and technology, told News Now. Diebold Inc. is an ATM manufacturer and CUNA Strategic Service provider, based in North Canton, Ohio. Block described the history of ATM growth. As for when ATMs really became accepted in the U.S., the standard often used is how long it took to reach a 50% penetration level to adopt any given technology, Block said. “With ATMs, it took about 16 years, so they really caught on in the mid-to-late 1980s as far as being a well-accepted component in society,” he said. When ATMs first arrived on the scene, they were offline machines run by a mini-computers in each ATM. “So every day, someone had to get the activity of the day off the computer to balance the transactions,” Block said. In the 1970s, ATMs were micro-processing-based. Real change came in the mid-1980s, Block said. “In the 1980s, new functionality came, which allowed the ATMs to print more elaborate statements and read the cards differently because of distributed micro-processing throughout the system--what we called a modular delivery system,” he said. And then functionality took off in early 1990s, when ATMs began scanning and accepting checks, he added. What does the future hold for ATMs? “Functionality will continue to adapt to whatever various societies expect,” Block said. “Cash dispensing will remain constant, but in the future--I’d say within single-digit years--we may call them something besides ATMs. They may dispense gift cards and become more of a convenience self-service device in the future. “They will be configured in various ways that do things beyond what a teller [or ATM] does,” Block concluded.