My Memories of the Machine Posting System
by Maureen Limbrick
Machine branches used a ledger card for each account instead of a ledger sheet. Accounts in the Number 1 Department had a buff coloured card, similar to the passbook. Number 2 Department was a blue ledger card and Number 3 Department a red one. The cards were stored in fireproof bins in account number order and were divided into ledgers.
One advantage of a machine branch was that the junior usually operated the posting machine and a senior member of staff checked the posting, freeing up other members of staff for the counter and other duties. Originally, the Bank used mainly Burroughs' machines.
At the close of business each day the deposit and withdrawal slips were sorted into account number order. The corresponding cards for the deposits were removed from the bins. The interest was calculated for each deposit and pencilled at the top of the slip, so that they were ready to be posted the next morning. The same procedure was used for the withdrawals except that most of the cards needed were already at the front of the bins as that's where they were placed after account and signature verification when the customer presented their passbook and slip for a cash withdrawal.
The Burroughs' machines could be manually set to different programmes according to whether needed for deposits, payments or the balancing of the ledger. The date was set manually too and a carbonised roll was inserted to provide a copy of the transactions.
The operator checked that the slip matched the ledger card and entered the figures from the last three columns on the card: the aggregate, the running total of interest, and the account balance. The carriage opened allowing the card to be inserted and lined up with the last line on the card. The carriage closed when the pencilled interest was entered followed by the transaction amount and the account number. A new aggregate, total interest, and account balance was automatically printed and the carriage opened to allow removal of the card. At the end of each ledger a total was produced. The same procedure was used for the withdrawals but with interest and transaction amount deducted from the card.
The posting was checked and total amounts of postings agreed with the previous day's transactions. Then the cards could be refiled into the bins.
At the Annual Balance, the posting machine was set to a programme that allowed the carriage to operate in the opposite direction. Interest for the next twelve months had been calculated and pencilled onto the card. A smaller machine roll was used. The ledger card was put into the carriage and the aggregate figure entered, then the pencilled interest and a new aggregate figure was automatically printed, the old aggregate becoming the new account balance with the previous twelve months' interest having been added.
The cards had been divided into ledgers so that totals could be printed at the end of each ledger to verify the balance, but the figures from the card had to be called back to the strip list to prove the operator had entered the amounts correctly. A trial balance was conducted at intervals throughout the year (the same as at manual branches) to locate any errors prior to the main balance.
The Burroughs' posting machines were fine when they ran smoothly, but it was often difficult to obtain a service engineer if there was a problem. In Head Office, Beryl Hirons, who had a lot of experience with common causes of breakdowns, often became exasperated, when having told the engineer what she suspected was wrong, then saw them going through the manual trying various solutions only to admit she was right in the first place. This must have happened to experienced staff at branches too.
Eventually, the Bank decided to source other manufacturers of accounting/posting machines. Mr Hayward (then the Bank's Deputy General Manager) and Beryl Hirons visited other firms including National Cash Register (NCR). In 1968, I accompanied them on their second visit to this company and we were able to operate their posting machines to see if they were suitable for the Bank's requirements.
The Bank finally agreed to purchase some NCR machines and began by replacing the Burroughs' Sensimatic machines in Head Office. The new machines proved to be very efficient and reliable initially, but as I left the Bank in 1969, I do not know if this continued until the introduction of computers.