September 9, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
I discovered something interesting last week.
You know those ATM cameras? The little camera in the bank machine that takes your picture while you’re floating bad cheques on a “borrowed” bank card?
Turns out that ATM cameras actually pre-date ATMs, which you wouldn’t think would be the case but it is.
While clearing out my dad’s old workshop on the weekend, we found serendipitously hidden behind several other interesting things, a machine called a Regiscope.
I did some research and found that back in the pre-digital days of the late-mid-twentieth century banks and some businesses would have a Regiscope as the designated spot for signing important documents or cashing large amount cheques.
The small camera mounted on the front had a second lens on the bottom. When a photograph was taken, the document would be record in the same frame as the customer’s smiling visage.
I have no idea how this thing ended up lost and forgotten in Dad’s workshop, but armed with the serial number I dug deeper and found that this particular machine has had an interesting history.
Admittedly there are significant gaps in the recorded history of these types of machine on the internet, so I may have filled in some blanks here or there with some reasonable, well-informed supposition. Definitely not a matter of just making stuff up. It’s reasonable, well-informed supposition.
Apparently this Regiscope was used as a prop and set decoration in several films. It can be seen quite prominently in the bank throughout the Al Pacino film “Dog Day Afternoon.” It was placed randomly in the background for several office scenes in the Beatles classic “Help!” Also (and most surprisingly) this very same Regiscope was in the back of the green pickup truck seen briefly driving between colosseum pillars in that one anachronistic shot during the chariot race in Charlton Heston’s “Ben-Hur.”
Maybe. Anyway, you’d be hard pressed to find any proof that it wasn’t in any of those movies.
Try to be nice to each other.