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History of POS PDF Print E-mail
Written by Angela Tan, Taiwan   
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 17:49



Software prior to the 1990s

Early electronic cash registers (ECR) were controlled with proprietary software and were very limited in function and communications capability. In August 1973 IBM announced the IBM 3650 and 3660 Store Systems that were, in essence, a mainframe computer used as a store controller that could control 128 IBM 3653/3663 point of sale registers. This system was the first commercial use of client-server technology, peer-to-peer communications, local area network (LAN) simultaneous backup, and remote initialization. By mid-1974, it was installed in Pathmark Stores in New Jersey and Dillard's Department Stores.

The first microprocessor-controlled cash register was built by William Brobeck and Associates in 1974, for McDonald's Restaurants. Each station was controlled by an Intel 8008, a very early microprocessor. There was one button for every item -- for example [2 Vanilla Shake], [1 Chocolate Shake], etc. By pressing the [Grill] button, a second or third order could be worked on while the first transaction was in progress. When the customer was ready to pay, the [Total] button would calculate the bill, including sales tax. This made it accurate for McDonald's and very convenient for the servers. Up to eight stations could be interconnected and printed reports, prices, and taxes handle from a single station in "Manager Mode."

Programmability allowed retailers to be more creative. In 1979 Gene Mosher's Old Canal Cafe in Syracuse, New York was using POS software written by Mosher that ran on an Apple II to take customer orders at the restaurant's front entrance and print complete preparation details in the restaurant's kitchen. In that novel context, customers would often proceed to their tables to find their food waiting for them already. This software included real time labour and food cost reports. In 1986 Mosher used the Atari ST and bundled NeoChrome paint to create and market the first graphical touchscreen POS software.

Modern software (post 1990s)

In 1992 Martin Goodwin and Bob Henry created the first point of sales software that could run on the Microsoft Windows platform named IT Retail. Since then a wide range of POS applications have been developed on platforms such as Windows and Unix. The availability of local processing power, local data storage, networking, and graphical user interface made it possible to develop flexible and highly functional POS systems. Cost of such systems has also declined, as all the components can now be purchased off-the-shelf.

The key requirements that must be met by modern POS systems include: high and consistent operating speed, reliability, ease of use, remote supportability, low cost, and rich functionality. Retailers can reasonably expect to acquire such systems (including hardware) for about $4000 US (2009) per checkout lane.

Hardware interface standardization (post 1990s)

Vendors and retailers are working to standardize development of computerized POS systems and simplify interconnecting POS devices. Two such initiatives are OPOS and JavaPOS, both of which conform to the UnifiedPOS standard led by The National Retail Foundation.

OPOS (OLE for POS) was the first commonly-adopted standard and was created by MicrosoftNCR CorporationEpson and Fujitsu-ICL. OPOS is a COM-based interface compatible with all COM-enabled programming languages for Microsoft Windows. OPOS was first released in 1996. JavaPOS was developed by Sun MicrosystemsIBM, and NCR Corporation in 1997 and first released in 1999. JavaPOS is for Javawhat OPOS is for Windows, and thus largely platform independent.

There are several communication protocols POS systems use to control peripherals. Among them are

  • UTC Standard
  • UTC Enhanced
  • ICD 2002
  • Ultimate
  • CD 5220
  • DSP-800
  • ADM 787/788.

There are also nearly as many proprietary protocols as there are companies making POS peripherals. EMAX, used by EMAX International, was a combination of AEDEX and IBM dumb terminal.

Most POS peripherals, such as displays and printers, support several of these command protocols in order to work with many different brands of POS terminals and computers.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 November 2011 17:39
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