Image via BitcoinATM
Behold: The world's first bitcoin ATM was set up for a press day in a ballroom at some hotel in San Diego. Local San Diego news outlet ABC10 wouldn't allow video embedding from YouTube, but you can watch the report here. The story of how it came to be is about as strange as you'd expect from the cryptocurrency world.
About a month ago, amidst Cyprus's bank crisis, Jeff Berwick, an anarcho-capitalist from Canada, did what any entrepreneurial opportunist does. He announced his plans to set up an ATM based around bitcoin. Terminal access to the decentralized currency, Berwick thought, would be irresistible to citizens trapped by a dwindling national banking system. Berwick's ATM, a "bi-lateral" machine, would allow customers to both deposit and withdraw cash in exchange for bitcoins.
Even as I praised the idea, it wasn't clear if it would ever happen. One writer chronicled his failed attempts to speak with the founder, and also insisted people ignore my initial coverage, calling it "almost certainly nonsense."
I then reached out to Berwick, who insisted his BitcoinATM plan was no joke, after which he sent me some photoshoppy-next-gen-iPhone-fanboy-rumor-style renderings of the machine.
"If he's legit," a colleague said, "then why can't he just show us a picture of the real deal?" True, I thought, my frustration heightened. But perhaps I can finally put my anxiety to rest, now that a demo machine lives. Jeff Berwick may be a little more stressed, as he announced yesterday that he's been kicked off the project.
Evan Rose, BitcoinATM's new 23-year-old owner, via ABC10
It seems like a sour ending for Jeff Berwick, whom co-owner Evan Rose effectively fired from the project. Berwick has spent the past month proselytizing about bitcoin to mainstream finance cable stations and media outlets across the web. But according to Berwick, Rose told him his "participation was no longer necessary."
Enough though, a product like BitcoinATM will likely break a lot more rich people's hearts before it is successfully deployed. (By the way, does this demonstration really count as deployment? No.) Regulatory permissions and licensing by governments around the globe will make the process a nightmare. In my interview with Berwick, his resolve seemed to be that such problems would figure themselves out along the way.
So while a bunch of nerds, anarchists, and sneaky 20-somethings are rolling up their sleeves to pioneer the bitcoin goldrush, we're still waiting to see one of these machines available for public use. The TV report states availability might be as soon as three to six months, but it also mistakes the bitcoin exchange rate as 100BTC per US dollar, so who knows what else it might have flubbed. We'll see.