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Impossible Questions: Fast Money Edition

November 12, 2014

Think you’ve got the answer? Keep reading to see if you nailed it.

How did an NFL star change the way you bank?

Don MeredithIf you know the name “Dandy” Don Meredith, then you were a big football fan in the 1960s. One of the first players ever signed by the brand-new Dallas Cowboys, the Texas native played for the team for his entire nine-year career, being named to the Pro Bowl three times and named the league MVP in 1966. After his playing days, he became a broadcaster and was Monday Night Football’s first color commentator when it debuted on ABC in 1970. (He was also a long-time pitchman for Lipton Ice Tea.)

But that’s only the well-known Meredith story. Meredith’s brother was a businessman named Jack Meredith. In 1967, Jack was in Enfield, England, on a business trip and had to visit a branch of Barclay’s, a British banking chain. The company had just installed its first “Barclaycash” terminal. Customers could bypass lines and use the primitive computerized machine to withdraw money simply by typing in their bank account number. Meredith thought it was a great idea, but puzzled why it was set up to do just one thing—cash withdrawals. He figured bank customers would love to use a machine for most all of their banking needs, such as withdrawals, deposits, balance checks, and transfers, outside of the famously slim “bankers hours.”

Meredith took news of the Barclaycash terminal to his employer, a company that made airport baggage carousels. They didn’t think it had much potential, so Meredith struck out on his own…with a big endorsement and cash infusion from his brother, Dandy Don. In 1969, Don and Jack Meredith created a company called Docutel. By 1971, the company’s engineers had created a “Docutel Total Teller” and negotiated to have it installed in an Atlanta bank (Citizens & Southern). One problem: customers didn’t know how to use them, or quite what they were. Fortunately, First National Bank of Atlanta got their hands on a DTT, painted it eye-catching red, and launched an ad campaign to tell customers that it was, more or less, a 24-hour banking robot. By 1980, nearly every bank in the country had what came to be known as an ATM, or “automatic teller machine.”

Need more impossible questions? Check out Uncle John’s Impossible Questions.

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