In Depth

Throwback Thursday: How Cash Registers Transformed SMBs

Imagine this scenario.

A customer walks into a retailer, picks out an item and tells the clerk “charge it.” Except, imagine that credit cards don’t exist, there’s no official book of financial records, and the concept of charging it really meant giving that retailer an IOU — but with no receipt on either end of the transaction.

Let’s say that customer comes back to pay, but there’s no record of what they are paying for or how much they actually owe. And let’s say there is a record of what they paid for, but it’s written in pencil and in very sloppy handwriting.

Or imagine a delivery of goods comes in and payment is made from the retailer, but no record of the transaction was recorded. Money went out, goods came in, but there’s no record of how much or when that transaction occurred.

Imagine what those earnings reports would look like? 


Well, that was life before the installation of a National Cash Register — the saving grace for all retailers, the mechanism that helped restore the reputation, profitability and efficiency for shops across the U.S. To help promote the importance of the National Cash Register, NCR President John Patterson helped create this video to educate and train merchants and store owners about the importance of having a system to record financial transactions.

While the video states it’s from 1925, some have suggested — based on the clothing and technology — that it is actually from 1916. And that’s why it’s being featured in PYMNTS’ Throwback Thursday feature.

Last week, we featured the NCR Stamping Phone — known as the first automated credit approval system that was featured in department stores during the 1940s. For those who are unfamiliar, this quirky little device enabled department stores’ sales staff to authorize purchases via an internal phone line.

And to provide a proper Throwback Thursday shoutout to the cash register (since it may eventually become extinct — particularly in its current form), here’s a few throwback images to show just how far the cash register has come.

cash cash 5     shutterstock_257797840     shutterstock_276853538



Digital transformation has been forcefully accelerated, but how does that agility translate into the fight against COVID-era attacks and sophisticated identity threats? As millions embrace online everything, preserving digital trust now falls mostly on banks and FIs. Now, advances in identity data and using different weights on the payment mix afford new opportunities to arm organizations and their customers against cyberthreats. From the latest in machine learning for fraud and risk, to corporate treasury teams working in new ways with new datasets, learn from experts how digital identity, together with advances like real-time payments, combine to engender trust and enrich relationships.

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