PIN system inventor made no money from his idea

02 May 2016


James Goodfellow, 79, who patented PIN technology for cash machines 50 years ago said he did not make any money from his invention.

In the 1960's the young engineer was working in Glasgow, where banks were looking for a way to allow customers to withdraw cash after branches closed on Saturday morning.

Goodfellow worked on the project for a number of weeks when the idea of a coded card with a personal number to access money occurred to him.

After he got the go-ahead from his bosses he started work on developing the concept with a team of engineers.

The patent was then applied for on 2 May, 1966, and the system soon became accessible for millions of people around the world.

According to Goodfellow, he gained no financial benefit from his invention but had gradually received recognition over the years and 10 years ago, named an OBE. In 2014 was conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of the West of Scotland.

Goodfellow, who lives with wife of 50 years Helen in Paisley, Renfrewshire, said, "I was left with this problem - the demand was a million customers, 2,000 machines scattered throughout the UK which anyone could use at any time, and only money dispensed to a recognised person.

"The conventional view at the time was that it was going to be biometrics - such as your fingerprint - but that was totally impractical for many reasons, reported.

"They wanted a methodology for allowing access to cash on this unmanned basis. It eventually landed on my desk and the reason probably was that in 1964 I had spent some time in the United States designing access control systems," said.
"The conventional view at the time was that it was going to be biometrics - such as your fingerprint - but that was totally impractical for many reasons."

He said: "The actual sort of eureka moment took place when I was messing around and suddenly realised that I could do it and it would probably solve the problem.

"That took place in my head and then on an engineering model but there was quite a bit of work to put it together into a demonstration form.

"I bundled this great thing on to a trolley at central station and wheeled it down and took it off at Euston, put it in a taxi and set it up in a boardroom and then the great and the good of the banks and the insurance companies were given the demonstration.

"We now had a token identified to a person, issued by the bank, along with a number they had to keep secret and that was the personal identification number. If you got it right then you got the money - which is exactly the same as what happens today."

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