September 2, 2010

Beginnings and Endings and Beginnings...

  • On this day in 1969, the first Automated Teller Machine (that's ATM to you and me) in the U.S. was installed in Rockville Center, New York.

The first ATMs were installed inside or outside banks, making it possible for people with bank accounts to access their money without waiting in long lines for a teller, including (for outer ATMs) when the bank was closed. Later ATMs cropped up at convenient places such as shopping centers, grocery stores, malls, amusement parks, airports, and other venues.

I just went to a rock concert last night, and there was an ATM there.

People can do more than take money out of their bank accounts with an ATM. These days (depending on the ATM) they can also make deposits (some banks spit back receipts with photos of the deposited checks), buy stamps and lottery tickets and even train tickets, pay routine bills, donate to charities, and of course check on their bank balance or recent transactions.

Some other names for ATMs include hole-in-the-wall, cashpoint (in Britain), Bankomat (in various European countries), and All Time Money (in India).

Can you think of something that people do today, that might be automated (done by machine or computer) tomorrow?

  • Also on this day in 1969 (the same day), the original Star Trek ran its last episode, since it was cancelled.
The show debuted in 1966 and ran for three seasons. It wasn't a "hit" -- it never got over 52nd in the ratings -- but it did have a very loyal fan base that ran a successful letter-writing campaign that led to the third season, and an unsuccessful letter-writing campaign that wasn't able to save the show for a fourth.

The ending of the original show was just the beginning of a mighty entertainment empire! The original series was shown in re-runs and syndication for years, and it developed more than a loyal following -- more like a cult following. There have been five more TV series (a short-lived animated series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: The Enterprise), with a combined total of 726 episodes over the course of 30 seasons. Also, there have been ten movies (and counting!). The franchise also includes hundreds of books, dozens of computer and video games, attractions at places such as Universal Studios and Las Vegas, comics, toys, and more.

Some fans identify themselves as "Trekkies," and others as "Trekkers." Since 1972 there have been science fiction conventions devoted particularly to Star Trek, and many attendees wear costumes that sometimes include pointy Spock ears. A few fans have learned some of the Klingon language, which is ranked as a full-fledged artificial language.

Like all science fiction, Star Trek has inspired some people to learn science and become scientists. It has even inspired some inventions: The first inventor of a cell phone that opens up (a "flip phone") admits he was inspired by Captain James T. Kirk's flip-open communicator.
To celebrate the day, check out some Star Trek on the web, including this episode.

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