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History of Retail POS Systems

Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier, circa 1879

Retail point of sale systems have their roots in an 1870s Dayton, OH saloon. Deeming himself a “Dealer in Pure  Whiskies, Fine Wines, and Cigars,” owner/operator James Ritty had a successful business. But, like most business owners, he faced a growing issue of dishonest employees who frequently pocketed money from the customers instead of depositing it.

While on a steamboat trip to Europe, Ritty was intrigued by a mechanical device on the ship’s propeller that tracked of the number of revolutions for maintenance purposes. Upon his return to Dayton, Ritty and his brother John began working to duplicate this idea to record cash transactions at the saloon with a mechanical device. In 1879, the Ritty brothers patented their invention as “Ritty’s Incorruptible Cashier,” or, as we know it today, the cash register.

The Ritty brothers opened a small factory in Dayton to manufacture their cash registers. Several years later, Cincinnati businessman Jacob H. Eckert bought the business from the Rittys and formed the National Manufacturing Company in 1881. He later sold it to John H. Patterson who continued making improvements to the cash register, including adding rolls of paper used to record each day’s transactions.

Modern-Day Retail Point of Sale Systems

Today’s retail POS systems allow retailers to operate every facet of their business

Over the years, more enhancements were made to the cash registers until the early 1970s, when the first computer-driven cash registers were introduced.

The first computer-driven cash registers were basically a mainframe computer packaged as a store controller that could control certain registers. These point of sale systems were the first to commercially utilize client-server technology, peer-to-peer communications, Local Area Network (LAN) backups, and remote initialization.

In the late 1980s, retail software based on PC technology began to make its way into mainstream retail businesses.

Today, retail point of sale systems are light years ahead of where they began. Today’s POS systems are faster, more secure, and more reliable than their predecessors, and allow retailers to operate every facet of their business with a single, integrated point of sale system.