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The Evolution of POS Systems

Invention of the First Cash Register

In 1879, an Ohio native named James Ritty and his brother invented what he called “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier.” A saloon owner, Ritty knew that his employees were stealing from him, and he wanted a way to stop them. While traveling to Europe, he noticed a device that counted how many times the ship’s propeller made a complete rotation. This inspired Ritty to use this same type of technology to create a machine that could accurately track his sales.

Ritty’s register wasn’t a cash register as we think of them today. It didn’t have a cash drawer that stored money. It merely recorded the sales made, and how much each was. Ritty could then keep track of each transaction. His machine did exactly what he wanted it to do.

However, Ritty tried but couldn’t find a market for his new invention. Eventually, he sold his patent to John H. Patterson, who then established the National Cash Register (NRC) Company, known today as the NRC Corporation. NRC is responsible for making cash registers a requirement for all businesses.

Cash Registers Catch On

Of course, Ritty’s original cash register needed some improvements before it could become a mainstay for businesses. Patterson added a cash drawer and paper receipts, making them popular among more and more businesses. These improvements made it easier for businesses to keep records of their transactions and manage their capital.

As the technological advances of the 20th century became available, the cash register continued to evolve. By the 2000s, cash registers had features such as liquid crystal display (LCD) screens, thermal printing, and magnetic credit card strips. These technological advances set the stage for transforming the cash register into the digital machine that is widely used today.

Evolution into a POS System

In the 1980s and 90s, computer software helped turn the cash register into the POS system that is now ubiquitous at every physical point of sale. The invention of the touchscreen interface – initially invented for restaurants – and the Microsoft platform gave the cash register a complete makeover. Additional new features included store automation and signature capture.

POS Systems Go Mobile in the Omni-Channel World

Enter the “cloud.” This development has caused manufacturers to revamp the POS system. As more consumers use their phones to pay for goods and services, utilize coupons and store memberships, and so many ways to pay – cash, credit, debit, or gift card — it is no longer enough for POS systems to merely facilitate these transactions.

This revolution is especially relevant in restaurants. Increasingly, self service kiosks are used in restaurants of all types, from fast food to fast casual.