The Evolution of “Cashiers’ Machines” – A Trip Down Memory Lane With Lolly
When was the last time you heard the jolly ‘cha-ching’ of the till as it snapped open to welcome your cash? If you were born in the UK after 2000, then it’s unlikely you’ll remember that at all.
What some people still call a “cashiers machine” has changed since the invention of the cash register. Even though the tech, and the names for these new technologies, have changed, to this day some people still use old names, such as “tills”.
Modern digital ePoS systems put paid to the manual cash register, but in most cases still retained the cash drawer. However, with Covid as a catalyst, more and more locations are putting up ‘cashless payments only’ signs, as they prioritise the convenience and cleanliness of digital payments over cash.
It seems we have reached the ‘cashless era’ and may also soon be moving to a ‘cashierless era’. Notes and coins do still have their place in our purchasing and within society, but, for the most part, our transactions are now taking place without the traditional cash register.
So how did we reach here? What journey has the “cashiers’ machine” gone on?
Ritty’s Cash Register
The first cash register (some say) was created as a security measure to stop staff stealing money from the saloon of James Ritty. In 1879, together with John Birch, he invented the Ritty Model I, otherwise known as Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier.(1)
The first cash registers were simple adding machines for cashiers, but in 1884, soon after John.H Patterson bought the business that made the machine and renamed it the National Cash Register Company, a paper roll was added to record all sales and the integrated receipt ‘printer’ was born.(2)
Unlike modern ePoS systems, as these cash registers were purely mechanical they did not rely on electricity. Thus, they were able to work even in power cuts and areas without electricity (battery powered tills now allow us to counter power cut issues).
Electronic cash registers
With the development of technology came the electric cash register, and the expansion of other linked items to make the point of sale more convenient, secure and accurate. Barcode scanners, thermal receipt printers and card terminals became commonplace, as well as PoS software to improve pricing calculations and sales.(3) Electronic cash registers were powered by the mains electricity and were therefore not portable. Like many mechanical cash registers they were built to be difficult to lift and carry (and / or often bolted to the surface they were on) to stop people running away with the cash they contained!
‘Cash’ registers today
Modern ePoS systems can be used on-the-go, as card and mobile payments mean there is no need for heavyweight machines to keep cash from running off. However, the weight is not the only difference. Till systems have extensive capability, enhancing management of the whole business, and simplifying the work of staff manning the PoS.
When you head to the till to pay today, often you’ll be greeted by a staff member using a touchscreen machine. Cashier staff are also now able to interact with customers on the floor, by carrying a portable tablet or all-in-one ePoS and payment unit (with the only thing tying them to any location being their wi-fi connection). This fast, flexible point-of-sale creates a dynamic and vibrant purchasing environment that is far more convenient and engaging for the customer. Wireless devices can also be easier to use in a socially distanced manner for the Covid era.
Customers are increasingly becoming their own ‘cashier’ as self-serve tills with touchscreen systems become steadily integrated into many businesses. Receipts are often digital (and thus create less waste), loyalty / CRM schemes have transcended paper cards or stamps and can be included automatically at the point of sale. The next step is AI empowered, contactless (and cashierless) checkouts, where payment is taken via biometrics, or an app with built in electronic wallet.
The evolution of the “cashiers’ machine” has lead us to the point now where technology can enable staff to upskill or broaden their skillset in their workplaces. That’s what we can call progress!