November 4 – World's First Cash Register

Posted November 4, 2013

Ka-ching!

A cashier ringing up a sale, in the old days, might just “accidentally” put some of the money into his or her own pocket instead of into the till. This kind of small-time theft often hurt business owners—you know, the guys who were paying the rent and utilities, the guys who bought the clothes or food the cashier sold to the customers...

The first cash register kept
a running total of monies--
but didn't have a drawer for
the money!
In an effort to make sure his cashiers were honest, business owner James Ritty invented the world's first cash register. The cashier pushed the button that corresponded with the amount of the sale, and a bell would ring to alert all that the sale had been “rung up” (probably where that term came from, right?). And the cash register kept track of the cumulative total of all the button pushes so that, at the end of the day (or night) the business owner would know how much money should be in the till.

And then he or she could compare that amount to the amount that was actually in the till!

A lot of old cash registers
are really beautiful!
Ritty received a patent for his invention on this date in 1879, and he called it “Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier.”

I suspect that, although the cash register couldn't be corrupted, human cashiers could still figure out sneaky ways to steal little bits here and there, if they were corrupt enough! Still, cash registers do make it easier to add up and keep track of sales while also making it harder to steal.

It was hard for me to find an article that gives a great explanation for how a pre-electronic cash register worked, but here is one that makes a stab at it.
A lot of modern cash registers look a little
like robots. (Robots that don't move!)
Or computers (which they are).
Or pieces from the space program.



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1 comment:

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