The Birth of the Cash Register

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Update time : 2022-10-21

In 1879, James Ritty had a problem. He managed a popular saloon in Dayton, Ohio, and he needed to prevent employees from pocketing the profits. Ritty designed a machine for keeping wandering hands out of the pot of earned cash: a machine that would, with improvements in design and use, come to be known as the cash register. Ritty patented his design November 4, 1879.

Ritty’s original design, called the Ritty Model 1, was pretty much an adding machine with one particular quirk. It required an employee to enter a transaction on the register and eventually hit the total key, which would released the cash drawer. When the drawer was opened, a bell rang, alerting the manager that cash was being handled and a transaction was taking place.

In the next few yearsafter obtaining his patent, Ritty sold it and his stake in his invention to a salesman named Jacob Eckert. Eckert would then turn around and sell the machine and its rights to John Patterson, a gentleman who founded the National Cash Register Company. Patterson added a roll of paper to the register for keeping track of transactions, preventing fraud both behind and in front of the register.

Cash registersranging from simple, un-motorized units to complex, computerized modelsare just about everywhere today. The most sophisticated models are computers running specific calculation and record keeping software to allow for the journaling of transactions and to provide customers with receipts or even additional coupons personalized by the shopper’s current purchases. For example: If you go shopping at a large grocery store and purchase a certain brand of ice cream, some registers will automatically print you a coupon for a discount off that brand the next time you return. Many of these sophisticated machines incorporate scanning technology to read barcodes and have sensitive touch screens.

Smartphone and tablet apps allow small businesses to swipe credit cards and basically employ a virtual cash register to make sales transactions. Today, many U.S.-based grocery and drug stores use touch screen computers at kiosks, allowing customers to self-check their purchases without the help of an employee.

Today the National Cash Register Company is still in operation, and probably will be as long as we exchange legal tender for goods and services; today, though, they also manufacture many of the world’s ATM machines. The concept of the cash register has come such a long way. I can’t really imagine our modern world without it. If Mr. Ritty hadn’t have invented it to keep sneaky servers’ fingers out of the till, it’s very likely someone else would have. Can you imagine how different your day to day errands would be without the cash register?

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