• Title in green: Hello Dollie! Wells Fargo makes history with first direct on-line ledger inquiry equipment in the west. Outline of woman on green background. A computer is visible in her outline.

Before teller terminals, there was DOLLIE

Posted on June 28, 2022

A behind-the-scenes look at the dawn of computerized banking in the 1960s.

With the click of a few buttons, tellers today can pull up customer account information in seconds, but it was not always that way.

Bankers initially kept customer records in large books and ledgers, locked up safely on site. As banks began opening branches, customer records continued to be decentralized with each branch keeping its own records. If a customer went to a different branch, a teller would call their regular location to verify information and account balances.

In 1961, Wells Fargo opened its first Operations Center to create one centralized location for all customer accounts. With five state-of-the-art computers, the Operations Center could process 100,000 checking accounts, 115,000 consumer loans, and trust department accounting.

Woman in high heels loads magnetic tape roll into large machine.

Instead of paper ledgers, records were stored on magnetic tapes. Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

Man removes part of computer in front of several other suited men.

Bankers inspect the central processor unit installed in the newly opened Operations Center in 1961. Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

With customer accounts removed from branches tellers needed a way to quickly access customer account information. Enter DOLLIE—the first computer system designed for tellers at Wells Fargo.

Woman dials in number into box connected to two rotary dial phones.

Teller places a call using specialized equipment to “ask” the computer for an account balance. Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

The Direct On-line Ledger Inquiry Equipment (DOLLIE) was a network using a telephone line between the branches and the Operations Center. Using a touchtone keypad and phone, tellers would enter in the customer account number and a few other codes. DOLLIE would electronically look up the account in the centralized records, and “tell” the banker the answer 30 seconds later. Alternatively, tellers could type the account number and codes into a special keyboard connected to the phone line. DOLLIE would send back a typewritten response.

Green magazine cover with outline of woman over picture of computer. Title reads Hello Dollie

To humanize its new technology, Wells Fargo introduced its Direct On-line Ledger Inquiry Equipment as the friendly persona DOLLIE. Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

Sequence of events showing man at teller counter giving check to teller who use touchtone phone to request balance from computer.

Sequence of events showing computer processing request and sending balance by phone to teller who is able to cash the check for the customer.

This sequence of pictures illustrates the intricate process which took about 30 seconds to complete. While that time seems enormous as a wait time today, at the time it was considered an incredibly fast account balance check. Credit: Wells Fargo Corporate Archives.

While it might seem quaint today, DOLLIE was the opening act to a dramatic revolution. As bank officials explained, DOLLIE was the first equipment of its kind and “a clear indication of our big lead over other California banks in the field of automation.”

A lot has changed since 1965. Computers evolved from mammoth machines to a feature of every teller window and part of everyday living. Across time, Wells Fargo has leveraged innovative technology to improve the banking experience for customers on the go.


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