Timeline: The Evolution of Financial Technology

The devices used to advance the financial industry during the past four decades

23 October 2017

In celebration of The Institute’s 40th anniversary year, we’re presenting a series of timelines highlighting topics and technologies that have moved forward significantly during the past four decades.

When Edward A. Calahan, an engineer at the American Telegraph Co., invented a printing telegraph for stock prices in 1867, he ushered in what might be considered the first application of technology to financial services. Thomas Edison invented an improved stock ticker a few years later.

Engineer Herman Hollerith filed a patent in 1884 for an electromechanical device that rapidly read numbers encoded by punching holes on a paper tape or set of cards. Known as a tabulator, its basic function was to count or add numbers represented by the holes and then produce the results on visible counters or print them on paper. Hollerith’s company evolved into International Business Machines (IBM).

William Burroughs’s experience as a bank clerk made it clear to him that the banking industry needed calculating aids, so he developed a mechanical adding machine. It printed numbers, added them up, and printed the sum. He filed a patent for his invention in 1885. That same year he formed the American Arithmometer Co., which later became Burroughs Corp., a leading supplier of office equipment.

IBM in 1948 introduced the 604 Electronic Calculating Punch, which quickly performed addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

In 1971 Donald C. Wetzel received a patent for his “automatic teller banking machine.” It relied on a magnetically coded strip on a plastic card and a personal identification number with which users could withdraw cash from their bank account. For his contributions, he was awarded the 2006 IEEE Simon Ramo Medal “for exceptional achievement in systems engineering and systems science.”

The timeline below lists technical developments made more recently for the financial industry.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is partially funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

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