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Tuesday, February 15, 2011
It's A Living - Part 4
In the back corner of the showroom at Standard Cash Register, loomed an R.C. Allen Model 700 Electronic Cash Register of '70's vintage. I wish I had a photo to show you, but after scouring the Internet, I was unable to find any remnants of one. In fact, I looked for other electronic registers for that era and found nothing. They don't seem to have the endurance of the old mechanical registers! Anyway, the R.C. Allen 700 was of a rather unique design, where the cabinet was like a tilted banana shaped dish attached to a cash drawer, similar to the early Data Checkers. What really dates it is the 'nixie' tube display. 'Nixie' tubes (I have no idea where the nick name came from) are little vacuum tubes with digits that glow inside them. It had a printer with a receipt and journal tape that were about an inch wide (28mm). The keyboard was about the size of a large calculator with about a half dozen department keys. It wasn't a terribly durable machine. We only had a few in a couple local convenient stores. Later on, R.C. Allen came out with the Model 100 which was an updated version of the Model 700. Nixie tubes were replaced with LED's and the electronics became integrated onto a much smaller board. Another machine we started peddling was the FJay 560 electronic register. FJay was the Fred Jay Corporation in Chicago. For many years, they were famous for selling reconditioned mechanical registers and parts to dealers and eventually started selling new machines in the form of JCM mechanical registers (previously mentioned) and FJay electronic registers. The FJay 560 was actually built by Omron and was a very reliable machine. Okay, I gotta tell this story; we had a gas station customer with one of these machines and they were broken into, the FJay 560 was taken away, the drawer was forced open, money taken, and the machine was tossed off a bridge into a river. Two weeks later, it was fished out of the river and eventually made it back to our shop for estimates. It still worked! Except for cosmetic damage, the register still ran. Impressive. Omron also built the Sweda electronic registers (which were almost identical to the FJay machines) and eventually started selling them under their own name. The only shortcoming to the FJay 560 was it's inability to correctly calculate tax. It was only able to do straight percentages for tax, but most states have what we called a 'tax lookup table' where the 'break points', that is the points where the next penny tax is incremented, is arbitrarily chosen by the lawmakers. When the FJay 561 came out, it was able to be programmed to follow any tax table. All of these Omron designed machines had the famous Seiko 101 printer that became the workhorse of the industry. They used 44mm paper and were very durable, at least for the first ten years, then after that, the 'trip shafts' would wear out and they would drop characters.
Seiko EP-101 Printer
Added to our product line was the TEC (Tokyo Electric Co.) electronic register MA-110. It, too, was limited to straight percentage but the problem was corrected with the MA-130 series. They proved to be a reliable register as well as the MA-140, MA-160, and MA-170 series which had a bigger printer, therefore a more substantial sized receipt tape. Unlike most ECR manufacturers who used printers from other sources (usually Seiko), TEC typically built their own printers for most of their models.
The last 'bercheeb' I would like to talk about is Victor's first attempt at an electronic cash register, the Victor 560, that was a machine I will never forget.
In 1973, Victor had developed a fantastic desktop calculator using a dot-matrix printhead. They incorporated this printhead into the Model 560. Although it worked great in a calculator, it did not in a cash register. Not to mention, the engineers (who must have had some vendetta against technicians) bundled all the circuit boards in such a way to make them virtually impossible to get at. In theory it was a solid machine with great potential. In reality it was constant service calls. The 560 was a general merchandise and grocery machine, they also came out with the 570 for restaurant applications.