The history of the cash register: from slide rule to camera

April 4, 2023

How the cash register has changed over the past centuries

From the mechanical to the smart cash register.

The classic cash register with a drawer for cash has faithfully accompanied us for more than a century. Yet in just a few years, it could be a relic of the past.

The inventor of the cash register

James Ritty invented the first mechanical cash register in 1879. His goal was to prevent employees from stealing cash from the cash register. In 1883, Ritty applied for a patent for the cash register. John Patterson bought the patent and the cash register business from Ritty in 1884.

The importance of the cash register

The cash register was of great importance for entrepreneurs. It was easier than ever to keep track of whether amounts of money had been stolen. In addition, receipts were evaluated statistically, for example, to observe and analyze the growth of the company over several years.

The principle behind the first cash registers was simple but ingenious. Cashiers had to press a certain key depending on the amount of cash they received, after which the cash register opened and they could insert the cash. Inside the machine was a device that counted how often various keys were pressed. The sum of the pressed keys had to correspond with the total amount of the day's takings. This enabled the owner to check whether any money had been stolen.

The bell on the cash register

The first cash registers had a much smaller range of functions compared to modern cash register systems. It was not possible to simply print out a receipt. In order for the business owner to know when a sale was made, a bell sound was heard when the cash register was opened. This sound was also intended to deter thieving employees from stealing money from the register by alerting the general manager, manager and guests that the register had been opened.

From the slide rule to the iPad

The first cash registers used basic mathematical operations such as addition and simple mechanical processes to make them functional.

The first slide rules enabled us to add or subtract numbers using basic mathematics. In the years 1969-1971, the first pocket calculators were produced. However, since these only had addition and subtraction functions, they were by no means superior to the slide rule. In 1972, the first scientific calculator was released by HP. Today, there are solar or battery powered calculators that can be used to perform complex mathematical operations such as root extraction, sine, cosine and tangent calculations.Only 15 years later, Atari developed the first Point Of Sales touch screen.

In the meantime, there are sophisticated and inexpensive software systems for the iPad that simplify the payment process.

Overview: Cash Register: Development and Current Trends

Since the advent of the first mechanical cash registers in the 19th century, they have evolved significantly in terms of function. Printing receipts for the customer was part of this revolution.

Atari developed a groundbreaking invention in 1986. With the help of the ViewTouch software, the Atari ST could be used as a POS touch screen. The graphical interface in combination with the touch screen was revolutionary.

Meanwhile, the trend is moving more and more towards electronic receipts. This makes sense from a resource point of view and is another important step in the age of digitalization.The point of sales systems and hardware used today are very advanced. Cloud-based solutions are in vogue and software programs are becoming more sophisticated and offer numerous useful functions.Smart cash registers with integrated statistics programs that can be used both online and offline are already standard equipment in larger establishments these days.‍

As part of the digital revolution, VisioLab enables catering businesses to significantly speed up the payment process with the help of state-of-the-art technology. The software uses the iPad's camera to recognize food and drinks and initiate the payment process in seconds.

Explore our Stories

Why Self-Checkouts are here to stay and "The Atlantic" Article is wrong

Why Self-Checkouts are here to stay and "The Atlantic" Article is wrong

This blog post critically examines the efficacy of self-checkout systems in the retail industry, drawing insights from Amanda Mull's article in "The Atlantic" and Nathaniel Meyersohn's piece in CNN Business. Initially hailed for their potential to reduce labor costs and streamline customer experiences, these systems have faced significant challenges, including high setup costs, maintenance issues, and mixed customer reactions. The post further explores the transformative role of artificial intelligence in redefining self-checkouts. VisioLab's innovative AI-based solution, which leverages visual object detection technology, is highlighted as a game-changer that overcomes the limitations of traditional self-checkout systems, offering an efficient, cost-effective, and user-friendly alternative that promises immediate return on investment and enhanced customer satisfaction.

How Sodexo Live! makes more profit with VisioLab

How Sodexo Live! makes more profit with VisioLab

VisioLab shares the success story of their collaboration with Sodexo Live!, highlighting how their AI-powered self-checkout solution transformed the customer experience at live events. The technology, featuring a proprietary visual self-checkout and automated food recognition system, was piloted across several Sodexo Live! venues, leading to significantly reduced wait times, increased transaction accuracy, and a notable boost in revenue. The post details the efficiency of the VisioLab system, the positive impact on both staff and customers, and looks forward to further innovations in enhancing live event experiences.

Facing personnel deficiency with digital solutions

Facing personnel deficiency with digital solutions

Since the Corona crisis, there has been a real shortage of staff in catering establishments. Due to numerous lockdowns, they have been reorienting themselves professionally.

3 Reasons for automatic payment systems

3 Reasons for automatic payment systems

Self-service checkouts are the trend. According to an EHI study, self-service checkouts were already in use in more than 1,200 retail stores in August - in the restaurant trade, the checkout without cashier is still new.

Moving from human to machine

Moving from human to machine

Nowadays, it's hard to imagine many areas of life without artificial intelligence.