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Everything you need to know about modern Point of Sale systems

Nowadays we swipe and tap our credit and debit cards at checkouts without a second thought, and increasing numbers of shoppers do the same with mobile phones and wearable payment devices.

So it’s hard to believe that the first point of sale machinery, the mechanical cash register, isn’t even 150 years old.

A saloon owner in the US named James Ritty invented the cash register in 1879, in an attempt to stop employees pilfering all his profits from the cash drawer. Every purchase had to be manually rung up and, when the total button was pressed, a bell would ring to alert the manager to the fact that the cash drawer was open.

Ritty’s patented machine was named the ‘Incorruptible Cashier’ and the rights to his invention were bought just five years later and put into production by a newly formed company, National Cash Register or NCR.

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Transforming Retail Spaces

By 1915, after aggressive development and expansion by NCR, there was a cash register in most retail establishments across the US, and NCR salesmen were active in fifty other countries. Business owners were able to control theft and keep track of inventory more accurately than ever before, making the cash register one of the transforming mechanisations of the industrial age.

Point of sale machinery was electrified in 1906 when an NCR employee designed the first cash register with an electric motor, but it was the 1970s before the next big change to point of sale hardware arrived, with the advent of micro processing.

Data Processing Arrives

Two types of cash register developed: the basic electronic cash register or ECR and the more sophisticated POS or point of sale terminal with its complex data processing functions.

Paying by plastic took off in the 1980s, making mechanical imprinters and then card swipe readers an integral part of the payment process. These are still popular in the US but are all but obsolete in the UK where EMV chip card technology has become the standard.

Chip and PIN

The introduction of chip and PIN technology added the electronic card reader and PIN pad to the POS hardware needed at the checkout. The first contactless cards were issued in 2007 and by 2011 the first mobile phones with payment certification technology reached the market.

To manage all these new payment devices, most modern day POS systems include:

A computer that runs POS software to manage sales, reports and inventory control, as well as capturing customers’ purchasing history
A POS monitor and keyboard or a POS touch screen. iPads and other point of sale tablets are becoming increasingly popular
A secure cash drawer for storing money and credit card receipts. Divided in much the same way as they’ve always been, nowadays the cash drawer receives a signal from the computer or receipt printer to prompt it to open
A handheld scanner or an embedded scanner, for reading the barcodes on products. The scanner deciphers the barcode information and sends it to the POS computer
A card reader for customers to swipe, dip or tap their credit or debit card or their mobile phone
A secure stand to hold the card reader and protect it from theft, criminal tampering and general wear and tear
A receipt printer
With so much hardware and software involved in the payment process, it's no longer just employees with access to the cash drawer who pose a threat to profits. Business owners need to protect POS iPads and tablets, card readers and PIN pads from tampering and theft by using good quality, secure stands, and also keep their networks and software secure from hackers.

Contactless Payments

As the number of contactless payments continue to rise, we may soon be saying goodbye to the cash drawer and the receipt printer, replaced by tablet-based terminals linked to contactless readers, with e-receipts sent directly to phones.

Which is all a far cry from the simplicity of Ritty’s original ‘Incorruptible Cashier’!

Check out Tailwind’s products designed to keep your POS hardware secure.



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