The First Patent for the Cash Register

November 4th Celebrates The Patent for the first Cash

Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate James Birch and John Ritty who patented the first cash register machine on November 4th 1880.

James was the owner of a saloon in Dayton, Ohio, USA, and wanted to stop employees from pilfering his profits.

The Ritty Model was invented in 1879 after seeing a tool that counted the revolutions of the propeller on a steamship.

With the help of James’ brother John Ritty, they patented it in 1883.

It was called Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier and it was invented for the purpose to stop cashiers of pilfering and eliminating employee theft or embezzlement.

Early mechanical registers were entirely mechanical, without receipts. The employee was required to ring up every transaction on the register, and when the total key was pushed, the drawer opened and a bell would ring, alerting the manager to a sale taking place. Those original machines were nothing but simple adding machines.

Shortly after the patent, Ritty became overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running two businesses, so he sold all of his interests in the cash register business to Jacob H. Eckert of Cincinnati, a china and glassware salesman, who formed the National Manufacturing Company.

In 1884 Eckert sold the company to John H. Patterson, who renamed the company the National Cash Register Company and improved the cash register by adding a paper roll to record sales transactions, thereby creating the journal for internal bookkeeping purposes, and the receipt for external bookkeeping purposes.

The original purpose of the receipt was enhanced fraud protection.

Today’s cash registers are all computerized but back then you had to press a certain key to make the cash drawer open.

Some corporations and supermarkets have introduced self-checkout machines, where the customer is trusted to scan the barcodes (or manually identify uncoded items like fruit), and place the items into a bagging area.

The bag is weighed, and the machine halts the checkout when the weight of something in the bag does not match the weight in the inventory database.
Normally, an employee is watching over several such checkouts to prevent theft or exploitation of the machines’ weaknesses (for example, intentional misidentification of expensive produce or dry goods).

Payment on these machines is accepted by debit card/credit card, or cash via coin slot and bank note scanner. Store employees are also needed to authorize “age-restricted” purchases, such as alcohol, solvents or knives, which can either be done remotely by the employee observing the self-checkout, or by means of a “store login” which the operator has to enter.

When was the bar code invented?

Long before bar codes and scanners were actually invented, grocers knew they desperately needed something like them. Punch cards, first developed for the 1890 U.S Census, seemed to offer some early hope.

In 1932, a business student named Wallace Flint wrote a master’s thesis in which he envisioned a supermarket where customers would perforate cards to mark their selections; at the checkout counter they would insert them into a reader, which would activate machinery to bring the purchases to them on conveyer belts. Store management would have a record of what was being bought.

The first step toward today’s bar codes came in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a graduate student, overheard a conversation in the halls of Philadelphia’s Drexel Institute of Technology. The president of a food chain was pleading with one of the deans to undertake research on capturing product information automatically at checkout. The dean turned down the request, but Bob Silver mentioned the conversation to his friend Norman Joseph Woodland, a twenty-seven-year-old graduate student and teacher at Drexel. The problem fascinated Woodland.

His first idea was to use patterns of ink that would glow under ultraviolet light, and the two men built a device to test the concept. It worked, but they encountered problems ranging from ink instability to printing costs.

Nonetheless, Woodland was convinced he had a workable idea. He took some stock market earnings, quit Drexel, and moved to his grandfather’s Florida apartment to seek solutions. After several months of work he came up with the linear bar code, using elements from two established technologies: movie soundtracks and Morse code.

The two filed a patent application on October 20, 1949, which helped the cash registers make a point of sale by scanning the object as we celebrate the first on the cash register today on November 4th, Cha-Ching!

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell


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