New York City's First Bitcoin ATM Is Boring

And that's totally the point.

Aug 21 2014, 5:50pm

Image: Author

Earlier today, I became one of the first people in New York City to turn cash into Bitcoin at an ATM. It was remarkable only in that it was completely unremarkable.

Like, I might as well be telling you about the time I went to the ATM at the laundromat the other day (it was cash only and I was $.75 short picking up my laundry)—oops, I already did.

Anyway, back to Bitcoin: The experience was much like my colleague Vicki Turk described earlier this year—download a Bitcoin wallet app, scan your phone, toss a buck in the machine (operated by a company called PYC), get Bitcoin. 

All images: Author

It's way easier than that time I tried to buy Bitcoin on an online exchange last year, when there was a shortage. And that's exactly the point:

"This way they can find this BTM, they can come in the middle of the day, talk to a person that's a real human being and use a friendly machine. It's a pleasant way to acquire Bitcoin. It gets rid of the messy details of having to go on an exchange," Matt Russell, PYC's chief marketing officer, told me. 

"I know if the Bitcoin price goes down, people might say now's the time to buy—but they're not going to be excited to buy if the online exchange says 'submit your bank information and wait two days.' They might lose that thunder inside them," he continued.

Or, maybe people who don't really have any cryptocurrency thunder inside them might be curious and try it out in order to capture said thunder. Though I'm a tech writer, I haven't spent a whole lot of time trying to acquire cryptocurrency—and I'm not really all that anxious to. But give me a machine where I can buy some, and, sure, I'll try it out.

This machine, owned by a new company called PYC,  is located in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, at a boutique called FLAT 128. It has accepted Bitcoin in exchange for sweaters, greeting cards, bracelets, and the like since earlier this summer. 

Elizabeth DuBois, the store's owner, told me she didn't know all that much about Bitcoin, but that it's easy enough for her to accept it, and, if Bitcoin really blows up, she'll be on the right side of history. And there's no risk for her: Bitcoin are automatically turned into real dollars on the spot. There's no point in not accepting Bitcoin, really.

And that's what this all comes down to. If cryptocurrency is ever going to leave the niche, it has to be accessible and usable. It has to be everywhere, and it has to be effortless. New York's first Bitcoin ATM seems to be a step in that direction.

"We want Manhattan to be 'Bitcoin Island,'" Russell told me. "We want this whole island overflowing with our Bitcoin machines."

Someday, maybe it will be.