NEW YORK (AP) — Imagine a store without a cash register and no other accurate ways to quickly tally up daily sales. That was the case for all retail establishments before the 1880s. Most store owners were left in the dark about whether they were making a profit or loss — and many suffered since it was easy for sales clerks to steal from the cash drawer.
That all changed with the invention of the cash register following the Civil War by a little-known saloon owner, setting into motion decades of innovation. Here, a look at the history of the cash register and some highlights at NCR, formerly known as the National Cash Register Co., which helped to make the machine ubiquitous at stores across the country starting in the early 1900s:
—1879: James Ritty, a saloon owner in Dayton, Ohio, patents a machine with a mechanism that's inspired from the apparatus that counts the spins of an ocean liner's propeller in its engine room. The so-called "incorruptible cashier" was the first mechanical cash register and had metal keys with denominations pressed into them to indicate the amount of the sale. There was a bell to ring up sales.
—1880-1883: Ritty's mechanical register catches the attention of John H. Patterson, a businessman, who purchased several machines for his general store in Coalton, Ohio. He buys several more for his retail coal business in Dayton, Ohio.
1884: Patterson bought the rights to Ritty's invention from Jacob H. Eckert, who had purchased the rights from Ritty. The price: $6,500. He renamed the company the National Cash Register Co. from the National Manufacturing Co. and started to put the registers into production. That company is now known as NCR, the global technology firm.
1888-1895: Eighty-four companies sell cash registers but only three actually survived long-term. Patterson, who aggressively bought out his competition and had a flair for sales, sets up an inventions department to create bigger and better thief-proof registers. He opened the first training program for his sales people.