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1963 Machine Room TGG-PAAlthough Martins is the first bank – in 1959 - to use a computer to handle the day to day processing of customers’ accounts, the rollout of the necessary equipment and the conversion of accounts by the allocation of account numbers is very slow.  Experiments take place at several branches up and down the land to measure the impact of computer accounting on the workload of branches, but sadly Martins never quite reaches the stage of full conversion to computer operation before the merger with Barclays.  Computer centres are established at Liverpool Head Office and in London, with Liverpool Heywoods, and London South Audley Street Branches processing their day’s work directly onto computer using punched paper tape. In 1966 Martins opens what for that time is the state of the art LONDON COMPUTER CENTRE at Bucklersbury House in Wallbrook, London. The above image shows the machine accounting room at Liverpool Heywoods Branch in 1963. The process of computerisation requires a number of time consuming clerical stages to complete - Account numbers must be allocated to every account of every customer. The numbers must be recorded on every voucher that passes through every account. The account number and transaction details have to be punched onto paper tape which is then read by the computer. Transactions are added on to or taken away from the running balance of the customer’s account. The computer also records statistical information that will help staff with the calculation of bank charges and interest.

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Image © Martins Bank Archive Collections

The Friden “Flexowriter” at Liverpool Computer centre, with (inset) a statement ready to print for Heywoods Branch.

Images © Martins Bank Archive Collections - Ron Hindle Estate


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Heywoods with numberThis is a very early example of a Heywoods cheque encoded with an account number.  Later, the branch sorting code number, and a cheque number will also be encoded along the bottom edge of the cheque, as in the example below.  In 1968 customers of 68 Lombard St Branch receive letters explaining that they are next for automation…   Best of all, the age of “error free” banking has finally arrived - Thanks to READER/SORTER technology, machines can now read the information printed on cheques, and sort each cheque according by any part of that information.  This ensures (in theory) that YOUR account and nobody else’s will be debited.  But how does it work?  The process of developing special characters that can be read by machines and humans alike was long and labourious, but finally Banks in Britain and America have  settled upon a common ‘code’ that is used to represent customers’ information in the form of the magnetic E13B typeface. For an in-depth look at how these numbers work, click HERE

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