A cash register is a mechanical or electronic device for calculating and recording sales transactions, and an attached cash drawer for storing currency. The cash register also usually prints a receipt for the customer.
In most cases the drawer can be opened only after a sale, except when using a special key, which only senior personnel or the owner has. This reduces the risk of personnel stealing from the shop owner by not recording a sale and pocketing the money, in the case that the customer does not require a receipt and has to be given change (cash is more easily checked against recorded sales than inventory). In fact, cash registers were first invented for the purpose of eliminating employee theft or embezzlement. The first 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. Some cash registers include a key labeled "NS" (most of the time silver in color), which is abbreviated for "No Sale", and opens the drawer, printing out a receipt stating "No Sale" and recording it in the register log that the register was opened. Some other cash registers require a numeric password to be entered when attempting to open the register. In the event of a power shortage, some models have latches that can be pulled to open the drawer.
A cash register receipt may be compulsory for tax purposes. The law sometimes also requires customers to collect the receipt and keep it at least for a short while after leaving the shop, again for checking that the shop records sales, so that it cannot evade taxes.
Often cash registers are attached to scales, barcode scanners, checkstands, and debit card or credit card terminals. Increasingly, dedicated cash registers are being replaced with general purpose computers with POS software.
Today, these machines scan the barcode (usually EAN or Universal Product Code (UPC)) for each item, retrieve the price from a database, calculate deductions for items on sale, calculate the tax, calculate differential rates for preferred customers, 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.
Currently, many cash registers are individual computers. They may be DOS, Windows or Unix based. Many of them 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 retailers and restaurants have used the OSSI (www.ossi.com) self-checkout system to create customized point-of-sale and self-checkout systems. Self-checkout is a way of increasing productivity and customer support by servicing more people during peak times.
The first cash register was invented by James Ritty following the American Civil War. He was the owner of a saloon in Dayton, Ohio, USA, and wanted to stop employees from pilfering his profits. He invented the Ritty Model I in 1879 after seeing a tool that counted the revolutions of the propeller on a steamship. With the help of John Ritty, his brother, he patented it in 1883.
Shortly thereafter, 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. John Patterson improved the cash register by adding a paper roll to record sales transactions, thereby creating the receipt.
In 1906, while working at the National Cash Register company, inventor Charles F. Kettering designed a cash register with an electric motor.
In the UK the term 'till' is used which describes a small compartment or shelf inside a larger blanket or other form of chest, used to segregate small items.