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.
  You guessed it, more to come....


6 comments:

  1. Very interesting reflection on the Victor cash registers as well as the TEC cash registers. I concur with your evaluation. I worked for Victor Business Products in Los angeles around 1977 for one year. The Victor 560 was in many grocery stores. I was new to the field and I remember after having a few callbacks, I told my boss how horrible it was to have to go back and repair a cash register again because I failed to the first time. His response was "welcome to the club." It seemed everything would go wrong with those Victors and then the company didn't treat me very well either. My peers were complimentary of my abilities, but management wanted to keep me down. I started at $4.00 per hour and my first raise bumped me up to $4.33. I quit at one year + one day to ensure I received my vacation pay. I had to fight for that. I immediately went to work for Los Angeles Cash Register. Within months I was at $8.00 per hour and was working on TEC Cash registers. There were a few common problems, but problems were uncommon on them. I loved it. TEC made fabulous cash registers, especially the MA-140 & MA-190.

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  2. Interesting. I worked for Victor LA office. Later I worked for LA Cash Register, only about a week.
    I recall the owner was Jay Swartz(?).

    I worked on the 560 and didn't have much work with the calculators. I recall that the manager there was
    Chuck Adams, one of the finest people I ever worked for.

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  3. I also worked for Victor, Los Angeles. Chuck Adams was the manager as I recall. I worked primarily on the 560
    Electronic Cash register. I also worked (a very short time) for LA Cash Register. Jay Schwartz was the name of
    the owner as I recall.
    Later I worked for National Semiconductor Datachecker division. Many long hours. I started in electronics in the
    POS field and first ever job was with Singer Business Machines. All of the Sears stores used the Singer systems.

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  4. I also wanted to add a story about a Delta cash register. It had been in a fire and the plastic case was melted. I did not work for the company (West Coast Cash Register- LA, CA.) But, at their shop we powered it
    back up and it printed out the sub-total which is what it would do after recovering from a power outage.
    It too used a Seiko printer. As mentioned, some of these older electronic cash registers were very
    sturdy. Not often do I see any mention of the products mentioned here. Everything is now PC based or those
    little stand alone cash register(s).

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  5. I got a job as a cash register repair man right out of tech school in the 80's I remember the old FJay registers. The core memory was so slow that when you hit subtotal, the nixie tubes would dim for a second or 2 while the subtotal was calculated.

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  6. I used to work on 700,800 and 900 series RC Allen CR's back in the late 70's early 80's I timed hundreds of those sekio printers and repaired 100's of those machines.. Sadly, I saw one in the Grand Rapids Museum today. ..I guess that means I am old.

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