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Who Invented the Till?

Cash registers are a vital part of today's retail industry - from corner shops to the largest supermarkets, everyone needs them. Other sectors such as banks, gyms, sports stadiums, restaurants, libraries, hotels, hair and beauty salons, fast food takeaways and the service industry, to name but a few, would find it hard to function without a till.

Modern cash registers have come a long way since the pre-computerised days, when huge buttons had to be pushed down with great force and number tabs popped up to show the amount of cash being put in.


Importance of tills

A major advantage of modern tills is their ability to streamline processes. Receipts can be looked through quickly and efficiently, checking monetary transactions. Most modern cash registers have scanners, so the shopping can be effortlessly zipped through the checkout by scanning a product barcode.

Tills can check prices, keep tabs on customer spending habits - particularly when linked to store loyalty cards - and enable customers to pay by credit and debit cards or scan coupons with ease. These registers are also known as the point of sale (POS) systems.

The till is a piece of technology that most modern businesses can't do without.



The modern cash register is a far cry from its manual predecessor that was invented in the 19th century by American businessman James Ritty. Born in 1836 in Ohio as the youngest of five brothers, Ritty became a saloon owner in Dayton after leaving the Union Army in 1864.

He realised that some employees were stealing from the business by pocketing cash from customers. Watching a machine that counted the number of propeller revolutions on a ship during his holiday to Europe, he had the idea of a similar invention to keep track of his sales.

He called on his brother John, a skilled mechanic, to help with his endeavours. The first cash register was produced in 1878 but improvements were later carried out for a second model. James patented his invention - called Ritty's Incorruptible Cashier - on 4th November 1879.

His machine didn't have a cash drawer but instead recorded the number of sales and the amount of each one, allowing him to keep an accurate track of how much money was being made. It had the familiar bell sound later referred to in adverts as, "the bell heard round the world".


Till evolution

A third model introduced a cash drawer and tablet indicators bearing the money values and attached to the keys using vertical sliding rods. When a key was pressed, the indicator rod popped up on top of the machine. The method of recording sales - a paper roll - enabled the retailer to cash up at the close of business.

James soon opened a small factory to manufacture tills. Three were bought by John H Patterson at $100 each to use in his general store at Coalton. The business and patent were then bought by Patterson, who renamed it the National Cash Register Company in 1884.

James Ritty remained in Dayton until his death on 29th March 1918.

The first cash register with an electric motor was designed in 1906 by an employee of the National Cash Register Company, Charles F Kettering

Today, the functions of the mechanical cash register are performed by electronic versions or by computer-driven POS systems that monitor activity in an entire store; recording sales, analysing business and controlling the inventory to streamline the whole process.

Restaurants' touch screen tills display menu choices, so the kitchen receives the order as soon as the waiting staff enter it into the till. Most POS systems have age verification software and unique user ID to keep track of each individual who uses the till. Many can download the day's or week's business into tax programs to save time.

Along with the state-of-the-art tills that perform many tasks, today's retail industry also requires innovative and modern fittings and fixtures. As suppliers of shop counters since 1984, KAS Shopfittings' products and services will cover most retail needs and budgets - from general purpose till points and cash-and-wrap counters, to contemporary units using premium materials. Please contact us for further information.

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