A cash register is a machine that records sales at a store. When a customer is buying something, the operator of the cash register (also known as a cashier) enters the price of the items the customer is buying. The price of each item appears on a display facing the customer as the item is entered. The cash register prints this information on a piece of paper called a receipt. When the last item has been entered, the total price of the sale appears on the display. A drawer built into the cash register opens, and the cashier is prompted to insert the money from the customer for the sale into the drawer.

The first working cash register was invented in 1884 by James Ritty in Dayton, Ohio. The cash register soon earned the nickname "Incorruptible Cashier". This is because, before the cash register came along, some cashiers fudged their math a little to get more money. With the cash register, it became a lot harder to "fudge" the math, if possible at all. Therefore, people called it incorruptible.

The first cash registers recorded sales by punching holes onto pieces of paper. The store owner had to add up the rows of punched holes to calculate the total sales for the day. Today, cash registers print the sale onto a receipt which has some carbon paper under it, so two copies of the receipt are generated. The customer keeps one copy and the merchant keeps the other. The first cash registers could only calculate sales per each item. Today, cash registers add up everything a customer buys and present a total. Most cash registers today are electronic, so they can calculate sales tax and discount prices. Most modern cash registers also have barcode scanners so that they can automatically recognize a product in their database and charge the customer appropriately. Another useful feature is the ability to accept credit cards.

The first cash registers worked simply by the cashier pushing buttons for the price. When a button was pushed, the number for that button would appear on a dial, and the button would push down a punch which would punch a hole onto the paper that recorded sales. With the advent of computers, cash registers turned into super-calculators. Many cash registers today connect to a central computer to automatically record their sales. They also dial up to other computers to process credit card purchases.

Anyway, Ritty was able to secure a patent in 1879. He got the National Manufacturing Company to market and sell his invention. The cash register included a bell that rang every time a sale was rung up (therefore the term "rung" up). This bell was nicknamed "The Bell Heard 'Round The World." In 1844, the industrialist John Henry Patterson bought the patent and the National Manufacturing Company, which he renamed to the National Cash Register Company. When electronic calculators became available, calculator companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Sharp, and Casio raced to make electronic cash registers, introducing a substantial amount of competition into the market for cash registers. Today, most large stores get cash registers custom-built, and small stores buy Sharp or Casio cash registers, since these are relatively inexpensive. Toy cash registers are also used to help children learn about money.


Cash register.

A device for recording the amount of cash received, usually having an automatic adding machine and a money drawer and exhibiting the amount of the sale.


© Webster 1913.

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