Cash Registers: History and Types

Known as a till in the U.K., the cash register is an important tool for businesses of all sizes. These often overlooked devices have been around for many years, and have made momentous advancements since their meager beginnings.
The First Cash Registers

In 1879, James Ritty, a Dayton Ohio saloonkeeper who wanted to prevent his employees from stealing his profits, invented the first cash register after he saw a tool that would count the revolutions on a steamship propeller. With the help of John Birch, James patented his invention on January 30 1883. This first working, mechanical register was nicknamed the “Incorruptible Cashier” and was sold by the National Manufacturing Company.

Upon learning about the first cash register, John H. Patterson bought both the patent and the company. In 1884, Mr. Patterson changed the company’s name to the National Cash Register Company and redesigned the cash register by adding a roll of paper that would allow the recording of sales transactions.

Charles F. Kettering, who worked at the National Cash Register Company, added extra cash register parts by implementing an electric motor to the register in 1906. He went on to work at General Motors where he invented the electric ignition for the Cadillac.

Modern Cash Registers

The standard cash register is typically found in small, locally-owned restaurants and retail stores. This type requires the price of an item be manually entered and features a cash drawer that will open once a sale is made. It has programmable features that can help allocate items to specific departments. This allows the owner the ability to know exactly what items sold. The standard cash register also prints a receipt so the customer has a copy of the transaction.

Larger establishments have cash registers that no longer require that prices be entered manually and instead are connected to a bar code scanner. Each item has a previously identified bar code that, when scanned, will automatically enter the price on the cash register and remove the item from the store’s inventory. These highly advanced registers incorporate most of the management features that the storeowner requires to properly operate the business.

Self-checkouts have been popping up recently in several large retail chains. These counters allow the customer to scan the item and pay for their purchases without the help of a clerk. Self-checkouts are a bit expensive, but eliminate the need to hire people to run the registers. The high price of these cash registers will probably keep them out of small businesses, but self-checkouts could become more common in the future.

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