A cash register, sometimes called a till or automated money handling system, is a mechanical or electronic device for registering and calculating transactions at a point of sale
. It is usually attached to a drawer
for storing cash
and other valuables. A modern cash register is usually attached to a printer that can print out
A receipt (also known as a packing list, packing slip, packaging slip, (delivery) docket, shipping list, delivery list, bill of the parcel, manifest, or customer receipt) is a document acknowledging that a person has received money or proper ...
for record-keeping purposes.
An early mechanical cash register was invented by James Ritty
and John Birch following the
American Civil War
The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 26, 1865; also known by other names) was a civil war in the United States. It was fought between the Union ("the North") and the Confederacy ("the South"), the latter formed by states ...
. James was the owner of a saloon
Dayton () is the sixth-largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County. A small part of the city extends into Greene County. The 2020 U.S. census estimate put the city population at 137,644, while Greater D ...
, US, and wanted to stop employees from pilfering his profits. The Ritty Model I was invented in 1879 after seeing a tool that counted the revolutions of the propeller on a steamship. With the help of James' brother John Ritty, they patented it in 1883. It was called ''Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier'' and it was invented to stop cashiers from pilfering and eliminate employee theft and embezzlement
Early mechanical registers were entirely mechanical, without receipts. The employee was required to ring up every transaction on the register, and when the total key was pushed, the drawer opened and a bell would ring, alerting the manager to a sale taking place. Those original machines were nothing but simple adding machines.
Since the registration is done with the process of returning change, according to Bill Bryson odd pricing
came about because by charging odd amounts like 49 and 99 cents (or 45 and 95 cents when nickels
are more used than
A penny is a coin ( pennies) or a unit of currency (pl. pence) in various countries. Borrowed from the Carolingian denarius (hence its former abbreviation d.), it is usually the smallest denomination within a currency system. Presently, it is th ...
), the cashier very probably had to open the till for the penny change and thus announce the sale.
Shortly after the patent, Ritty became overwhelmed with the responsibilities of running two businesses, so he sold all of his interests in the cash register business to Jacob H. Eckert of Cincinnati, a china and glassware salesman, who formed the National Manufacturing Company. In 1884 Eckert sold the company to John H. Patterson, who renamed the company the National Cash Register
Company and improved the cash register by adding a paper roll to record sales transactions, thereby creating the
A journal, from the Old French ''journal'' (meaning "daily"), may refer to:
* Bullet journal, a method of personal organization
*Diary, a record of what happened over the course of a day or other period
*Daybook, also known as a general journal, a ...
for internal bookkeeping
purposes, and the receipt
for external bookkeeping purposes. The original purpose of the receipt was enhanced fraud protection. The business owner could read the receipts to ensure that cashiers charged customers the correct amount for each transaction and did not embezzle the cash drawer. It also prevents a customer from defrauding the business by falsely claiming receipt of a lesser amount of change or a transaction that never happened in the first place. The first evidence of an actual cash register was used in Coalton, Ohio, at the old mining company.
In 1906, while working at the National Cash Register company, inventor Charles F. Kettering
designed a cash register with an electric motor.
A leading designer, builder, manufacturer, seller and exporter of cash registers from the 1950s until the 1970s was London
-based (and later
Brighton () is a seaside resort and one of the two main areas of the City of Brighton and Hove in the county of East Sussex, England. It is located south of London.
Archaeological evidence of settlement in the area dates back to the Bronze A ...
-based) Gross Cash Registers Ltd., founded by brothers Sam and Henry Gross. Their cash registers were particularly popular around the time of
Decimalisation or decimalization (see spelling differences) is the conversion of a system of currency or of weights and measures to units related by powers of 10.
Most countries have decimalised their currencies, converting them from non-decima ...
in Britain in early 1971, Henry having designed one of the few known models of cash register which could switch currencies from
£sd (occasionally written Lsd, spoken as "pounds, shillings and pence" or pronounced ) is the popular name for the pre-decimal currencies once common throughout Europe, especially in the British Isles and hence in several countries of the ...
to £p so that retailers could easily change from one to the other on or after Decimal Day
. Sweda also had decimal-ready registers where the retailer used a special key on Decimal Day for the conversion.
In current use
In some jurisdictions the law also requires customers to collect the receipt and keep it at least for a short while after leaving the shop, again to check that the shop records sales, so that it cannot evade sales taxes
Often cash registers are attached to
Scale or scales may refer to:
* Scale (descriptive set theory), an object defined on a set of points
* Scale (ratio), the ratio of a linear dimension of a model to the corresponding dimension of the original
* Scale factor, a number ...
A barcode reader is an optical scanner that can read printed barcodes, decode the data contained in the barcode to a computer. Like a flatbed scanner, it consists of a light source, a lens and a light sensor for translating optical impulses into ...
s, and debit card
or credit card
terminals. Increasingly, dedicated cash registers are being replaced with general purpose
A computer is a machine that can be programmed to Execution (computing), carry out sequences of arithmetic or logical operations (computation) automatically. Modern digital electronic computers can perform generic sets of operations known as C ...
POS, Pos or PoS may refer to:
* Part of speech, the role that a word or phrase plays in a sentence
* Poverty of the stimulus, a linguistic term used in language acquisition and development
* Sayula Popoluca (ISO 639-3), an indigenous ...
software. Cash registers use
In computing, a bitmap is a mapping from some domain (for example, a range of integers) to bits. It is also called a bit array or bitmap index.
As a noun, the term "bitmap" is very often used to refer to a particular bitmapping application: t ...
characters for printing.
Today, point of sale systems scan the barcode (usually EAN
) for each item, retrieve the price from a database
, calculate deductions for items on sale (or, in British retail terminology, "special offer", "multibuy" or " buy one, get one free
"), calculate the sales tax
A value-added tax (VAT), known in some countries as a goods and services tax (GST), is a type of tax that is assessed incrementally. It is levied on the price of a product or service at each stage of production, distribution, or sale to the en ...
, calculate differential rates for preferred customers, actualize inventory, time and date stamp the transaction, record the transaction in detail including each item purchased, record the method of payment, keep totals for each product or type of product sold as well as total sales for specified periods, and do other tasks as well. These POS terminals will often also identify the cashier on the receipt, and carry additional information or offers.
Currently, many cash registers are individual computers. They may be running traditionally in-house software or general purpose software such as
DOS is shorthand for the MS-DOS and IBM PC DOS family of operating systems.
DOS may also refer to:
* Data over signalling (DoS), multiplexing data onto a signalling channel
* Denial-of-service attack (DoS), an attack on a communicati ...
. Many of the newer ones have touch screens. They may be connected to computerized point of sale
networks using any type of protocol. Such systems may be accessed remotely for the purpose of obtaining records or troubleshooting. Many businesses also use
A tablet computer, commonly shortened to tablet, is a mobile device, typically with a mobile operating system and touchscreen display processing circuitry, and a rechargeable battery in a single, thin and flat package. Tablets, being comput ...
s as cash registers, utilizing the sale system as downloadable app-software.
Cash registers include a key labeled "No Sale", abbreviated "NS" on many modern electronic cash registers. Its function is to open the drawer, printing a receipt stating "No Sale" and recording in the register log that the register was opened. Some cash registers require a numeric password or physical key to be used when attempting to open the till.
A cash register's drawer can only be opened by an instruction from the cash register except when using special
Key or The Key may refer to:
* Key (cryptography), a piece of information that controls the operation of a cryptography algorithm
* Key (lock), device used to control access to places or facilities restricted by a lock
* Key (m ...
, generally held by the owner and some employees (e.g. manager). This reduces the amount of contact most employees have with cash and other valuables. It also reduces risks of an employee taking money from the drawer
without a record and the owner's consent, such as when a customer does not expressly ask for a receipt but still has to be given change (cash is more easily checked against recorded sales than
Inventory (American English) or stock (British English) refers to the goods and materials that a business holds for the ultimate goal of resale, production or utilisation.
Inventory management is a discipline primarily about specifying the sha ...
A cash drawer is usually a compartment underneath a cash register in which the cash from transactions is kept. The drawer typically contains a removable till. The till is usually a plastic or wooden tray divided into compartments used to store each denomination of bank notes and coins separately in order to make counting easier. The removable till allows money to be removed from the sales floor to a more secure location for counting and creating bank deposits. Some modern cash drawers are individual units separate from the rest of the cash register.
A cash drawer is usually of strong construction and may be integral with the register or a separate piece that the register sits atop. It slides in and out of its lockable box and is secured by a spring-loaded catch. When a transaction that involves cash is completed, the register sends an electrical impulse to a solenoid to release the catch and open the drawer.
Cash drawers that are integral to a stand-alone register often have a manual release catch underneath to open the drawer in the event of a power failure. More advanced cash drawers have eliminated the manual release in favor of a cylinder lock, requiring a key to manually open the drawer. The cylinder lock usually has several positions: locked, unlocked, online (will open if an impulse is given), and release. The release position is an intermittent position with a spring to push the cylinder back to the unlocked position. In the "locked" position, the drawer will remain latched even when an electric impulse is sent to the solenoid.
Some cash drawers are designed to store notes upright & facing forward, instead of the traditional flat and front to back position. This allows more varieties of notes to be stored. Some cash drawers are flip top in design, where they flip open instead of sliding out like an ordinary drawer, resembling a cashbox instead.
An often used non-sale function is the aforementioned "no sale". In case of needing to correct change given to the customer, or to make change from a neighboring register, this function will open the cash drawer of the register. Where non-management staff are given access, management can scrutinize the count of "no sales" in the log to look for suspicious patterns.
Generally requiring a management key, besides programming prices into the register, are the report functions. An "X" report will read the current sales figures from memory and produce a paper printout. A "Z" report will act like an "X" report, except that counters will be reset to zero.
Registers will typically feature a numerical pad, QWERTY
or custom keyboard, touch screen interface, or a combination of these input methods for the cashier to enter products and fees by hand and access information necessary to complete the sale. For older registers as well as at restaurants and other establishments that do not sell barcoded items, the manual input may be the only method of interacting with the register. While customization was previously limited to larger chains that could afford to have physical keyboards custom-built for their needs, the customization of register inputs is now more widespread with the use of touch screens that can display a variety of point of sale software.
Modern cash registers may be connected to a handheld or stationary barcode reader
so that a customer's purchases can be more rapidly scanned than would be possible by keying numbers into the register by hand. The use of scanners should also help prevent errors that result from manually entering the product's barcode or pricing. At grocers, the register's scanner may be combined with a scale for measuring product that is sold by weight.
Cashiers are often required to provide a receipt to the customer after a purchase has been made. Registers typically use thermal printers
to print receipts, although older
dot matrix printers
A dot matrix printer is an impact printer that prints using a fixed number of pins or wires. Typically the pins or wires are arranged in one or several vertical columns. The pins strike an ink-coated ribbon and force contact between the ribbon ...
are still in use at some retailers. Alternatively, retailers can forgo issuing paper receipts in some jurisdictions by instead asking the customer for an email to which their receipt can be sent. The receipts of larger retailers tend to include unique barcodes or other information identifying the transaction so that the receipt can be scanned to facilitate returns or other customer services.
In stores that use electronic article surveillance
, a pad or other surface will be attached to the register that deactivates security devices embedded in or attached to the items being purchased. This will prevent a customer's purchase from setting off security alarms at the store's exit.
Self-service cash register
Some corporations and
A supermarket is a self-service shop offering a wide variety of food, beverages and household products, organized into sections. This kind of store is larger and has a wider selection than earlier grocery stores, but is smaller and more ...
s have introduced self-checkout machines, where the customer is trusted to scan the
A barcode or bar code is a method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form. Initially, barcodes represented data by varying the widths, spacings and sizes of parallel lines. These barcodes, now commonly referred to as linear or o ...
s (or manually identify uncoded items like fruit), and place the items into a bagging area.
The bag is weighed, and the machine halts the checkout when the weight of something in the bag does not match the weight in the inventory database. Normally, an employee is watching over several such checkouts to prevent theft or exploitation of the machines' weaknesses (for example, intentional misidentification of expensive produce or dry goods). Payment on these machines is accepted by debit card
/ credit card
, or cash via coin slot and bank note scanner
. Store employees are also needed to authorize "age-restricted" purchases, such as alcohol, solvents or knives, which can either be done remotely by the employee observing the self-checkout, or by means of a "store login" which the operator has to enter.
* Credit card terminal
Electronic funds transfer at point of sale (EFTPOS; ) is an electronic payment system involving electronic funds transfers based on the use of payment cards, such as debit or credit cards, at payment terminals located at points of sale. EFTPO ...
* Point of sale
Point of sale display
A point-of-sale display (POS display) is a specialised form of sales promotion that is found near, on, or next to a checkout counter (the "point of sale"). They are intended to draw the customers' attention to products, which may be new product ...
Retail store elements