NCR Corporation is a technology company specializing in products for the retail and financial sectors. Its main products are point-of-sale terminals, automatic teller machines, check processing systems, barcode scanners, and business consumables. They also are one of the largest providers of IT maintenance support services. From 1988 to 1997 they sponsored the NCR Book Award for non-fiction.
The company was founded in 1884 and acquired by AT&T in 1991. A restructuring of AT&T in 1996 led to NCR's re-establishment on 1 January, 1997 as a separate company, and also involved the spin-off from AT&T of Lucent Technologies; NCR is the only AT&T spin-off that has retained its original name – all others have either been purchased or renamed following subsequent mergers.
The company began as the National Manufacturing Company of Dayton, Ohio, which was established to manufacture and sell the first mechanical cash register, invented in 1879 by James Ritty. In 1884 the company and patents were bought by John Henry Patterson and his brother Frank Jefferson Patterson and the firm was renamed the National Cash Register Company. Patterson formed NCR into one of the first modern American companies, introducing new, aggressive sales methods and business techniques. He established the first sales training school in 1893, and introduced a comprehensive social welfare program for his factory workers.
Other significant figures in the early history of the company were Charles F. Kettering, Thomas J. Watson, Sr. and Edward A. Deeds. Deeds and Kettering went on to found Delco Electronics which became a division of General Motors. Watson eventually worked his way up to general sales manager. Bent on inspiring the dispirited NCR sales force, Watson introduced the motto "THINK!" Signs with this motto were erected in factory buildings, sales offices, and club rooms during the mid-1890s. "THINK" later became a widely-known symbol of IBM. Kettering designed the first cash register powered by an electric motor in 1906. Within a few years he developed the Class 1000 register which was in production for 40 years, and the O.K. Telephone Credit Authorization system for verifying credit in department stores.
By 1911 it had sold one million machines and grown to almost 6,000 employees. Combined with rigorous legal attacks, Patterson's methods enabled the company to fight off, bankrupt or buy-out over 80 of its early competitors and achieve control of 95% of the U.S. market.
In 1912, the company was found guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. Patterson, Deeds, Watson, and 25 other NCR executives and managers were convicted for illegal anti-competitive sales practices and were sentenced to one year of imprisonment. Their convictions were unpopular with the public due to the efforts of Patterson and Watson to help those affected by the Dayton, Ohio floods of 1913, but efforts to have them pardoned by President Woodrow Wilson were unsuccessful. However, their convictions were overturned on appeal in 1915 on the grounds that important defense evidence should have been admitted.
Two million units were sold by 1922, the year John Patterson died. In 1925 the company went public with an issue of $55 million in stock, at that time the largest public offering in United States history. During World War I the company manufactured shell fuzes and aircraft instrumentation, and during World War II built aero-engines, bomb sights and code-breaking machines, including the American bombe designed by Joseph Desch.
Building on their wartime experience, NCR became a major post-war force in developing new technology. In 1953, following their acquisition of Computer Research Corporation the previous year, the company created a specialised electronics division. In 1956, NCR introduced its first electronic device, the Class 29 Post-Tronic, a bank machine using magnetic stripe technology. With GE the company manufactured its first transistor-based computer in 1957, the NCR 304.
Also in the 1950s NCR introduced MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition). In 1962, NCR introduced the NCR-315 Electronic Data Processing System which included the CRAM storage device, the first automated mass storage alternative to magnetic tape libraries accessed manually by computer operators. The NCR 500 computer was also offered to customers who did not need the full power of the 315. The company's first all-integrated circuit computer was the Century 100 of 1968.
The company adopted the name NCR Corporation in 1974.
In the 1980s, NCR sold various PC compatible AT-class computers, like the small form factor NCR-3390 (called an "intelligent terminal"). They proposed a customized version of MS-DOS, NCR-DOS, which for example offered support for switching the CPU between 6, 8 or 10 MHz speeds. The computers featured an improved CGA adapter, the NGA, which had a 640×400 text mode more suitable for business uses than the original 640x200 mode, with characters drawn using single-pixel-wide lines, giving an appearance similar to that of classic IBM 3270 terminals. The additional four-color 640×400 graphical mode was identical to CGA's 320×200 mode from a programming point of view.
In 1990, NCR introduced the System 3000, a seven-level family of computers based on Intel's 386 and 486 CPUs. The majority of the System 3000 range utilised IBM's Micro Channel architecture rather than the more prevalent ISA architecture, and utilised SCSI peripherals as well as the more popular parallel and serial port interfaces, resulting in a premium product with premium pricing.
Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) is now NCR's principal product line. NCR had made its first ATM in the late 1970s with widespread installations of the model 770 in National Westminster and Barclays Banks throughout the UK, but it was not until the Model 5070, developed at its Dundee plant in Scotland and introduced in 1983 that the company began to make more serious inroads into the ATM market. Subsequent models included the 5084, 56xx, and 58xx (Personas) series. In early 2008 the company launched its new generation of ATMs - the 662x/663x SelfServ series. NCR currently commands over a third of the entire ATM market, with an estimated $18 trillion being withdrawn from NCR ATMs every year. In addition, NCR's expertise in this field lead the company to contract with the U.S. Military to support the Eagle Cash program with customized ATMs.
There have been several distinct generations:
NCR's 6th generation of ATMs have been noted for the further move towards intelligent deposit and the expansion of secondary functions such as barcode reading.
For a while, starting in 1994 the subsidiary was renamed AT&T Global Information Solutions, but in 1995, AT&T decided to spin-off the company, and in 1996, changed its name back to NCR in preparation for a spin-off. The company outlined its reasons for the spin-off in an Information Statement sent to its stockholders, which cited, in addition to "changes in customer needs" and "need for focused management time and attention", the following:
The Montgomery County Historical Society and NCR Corporation joined in 1998 into an innovative partnership committed to preserving the voluminous NCR Archive. For more than three months in late 1999, trucks traveled between NCR's Building 28 and the Historical Society's Research Center, bringing the three million pieces of this extraordinary collection to its new home.
In 1998, NCR sold its computer hardware manufacturing assets to Solectron and ceased to produce general-purpose computer systems, focusing instead on the retail and financial industries. In 2000, NCR acquired CRM provider Ceres Integrated Solutions and services company 4Front Technologies. Recent acquisitions include self-service companies Kinetics, InfoAmerica and Galvanon, and software company DecisionPoint. In 2006, NCR acquired software company IDVelocity and the ATM manufacturing division of Tidel, a cash security equipment manufacturer specializing in retail markets. Today, NCR's R&D activity is split between its two main centres in Atlanta USA and Dundee, Scotland.