Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's A Living - Part 5

DTS 500 at a Wal-Mart

Fotomat Booth
  From 1978 to 1991, I worked at Capitol Cash Register, now called CCR Data Systems, located in Concord, NH.  I worked on only electronic registers which was fine with me!  They weren't quite as heavy, oily, or inky.  Almost all of the ECR's I mentioned in Part 4, I continued to work on plus additional ones.  It remains to be seen if I can find any pictures of them on the 'net.  The primary line was Data Terminal Systems or DTS that had just started in 1975.  They were unique because they were a US based company nearby in Maynard, MA.  One machine that was passe when I got there, was the DTS Dacap.  The DTS 100 was a tiny little thing that was often found in similarly tiny Fotomat booths.  Invariably, I would go on a service call to a Fotomat about the same time they were having a shift change (there was only room for one person in the booth) on a hot summer day when the AC wasn't working.  A common occurrence was having pennies work their way into the electronics through the top of the machine.  The DTS 150 was a little better with a slightly improved printer.  The DTS 200 sported a dot matrix printer instead of typewheel printers that were in it's predecessors but was constantly prone to lock-ups.  The DTS 300 was more rugged with the proven Seiko EP-101 printer.  The machines were more sophisticated with the advent of the DTS 400 and DTS 440.  They still used the 101 printer but had many more functions.  The 400 was designed for restaurant applications and the 440 for grocery stores.  The DTS 440 was my favourite which I knew inside and out, it was rugged, dependable and relatively easy to service.  When the DTS 500 series came out, they had dot matrix printers and much more sophistication in it's programming.  It did a lot more so there was a lot to go wrong.  When this series came out, dealers now had to have a 'programming department'.
Electronic cash register Maconick
  One machine that was fascinating was TEC's very first ECR that I never saw until I was at CCR.  It was called the TEC Maconic BRC-30.  What was interesting about it was the fact that a third of the machine was still mechanical, taking care of all the printing.  The other two-thirds was the electronics.
  We were also Sweda dealers so had lots of Sweda mechanical and ECR's.  As I previously mentioned, the Sweda ECR's were built by Omron and were very reliable.  There was a small population of MKD Bantam and Victor 560 registers, thank goodness!
  In the early days of CCR, before we had a call center to dispatch us to our calls, the service manager would gave us a fist full of slips that had our service calls for the day.  They were organized into areas, naturally, and, in the summer, when he asked who wanted the Hampton Beach, NH run, everyone volunteered, because they knew that there was the opportunity for girl watching on the beach!
  When the CCR building was built, there was a hole left in the floor between the main floor and the basement.  The electronics department, where I worked, was in the basement.  The intent of the opening was for the future installation of an elevator.  The elevator never happened, and it was a standing joke that we never got an elevator, we only got the shaft.

  Eventually, my primary system that I worked on was the Sweda 80S.  It was a supermarket scanning system using a pair of Data General Nova 1200 computers in a 'backroom' environment.  The scanners and POS (point of sale) terminals were built by Sweda. There were thirteen Shaw's Supermarkets in our area and I had the fun of upgrading most of them from mechanical registers to scanning stores.  By today's standards, the computer was archaic, using 64KB of core memory, which is a fraction of what today's home PC's use.  The hard drive is even more ridiculous, the drawer that is partially pulled out in the photo is a 10MB hard drive and two people can barely carry it.  There is a fixed 5MB disk and a removable 5MB disk (the white circle on top of the drawer).  Things have changed.
  At the frontend, there were checkstand controllers that were a smaller version of the Nova 1200 and were crammed underneath the checkstand.  One of these could control four 'dumb' terminals.  One thing noteworthy about the terminals was the printer.  It was like a Seiko 101 printer, but had a much larger print drum, which made it a slower printer.  What made this printer unique was it's ability to print full alpha, hence the larger drum.  During installation, it was necessary to put pins on hundreds of wires, one at a time, so that the cables could be interconnected to the controllers and back to the mainframe.
  In 1984 I was transferred to Vermont where CCR had established a branch service office in Montpelier.  Hammond-Epco had lost the DTS franchise in the state and we took it over.  Vermont is a beautiful state and it was great to travel all over it on service calls and see it up close.
  The downside to taking over the accounts of another dealer is that you have no programming documentation of the machines.  That meant taking program 'dumps' from the registers and translating them into a hard copy.  The one that was the trickiest was the DTS 440 because a program dump was from a Seiko EP-101 printer.  The printout was whatever the character was on the printdrum for that particular column and position.  The program was written in hexadecimal so there were 16 characters in each set.  It was a matter of identifying the character for each column of each line and convert it to the hex equivalent and inserting it into the appropriate places on the program sheet.
  There were a lot of DTS 440's in many P&C and Grand Union markets.  Later, Price Chopper bought up a lot of these stores.  There were also many smaller businesses with every model of DTS.  In addition, we were heavily engaged in TEC's and serviced just about any other brand; Casio, Sharp, Teknika, etc.
  DTS's new line of ECR's was the DTS 2100, not built by them but by Kyrocera, a Japanese firm.  It was a popular machine that worked fairly well.  It had an interesting bit of engineering in it; if the printer circuit overloaded, it would blow out a transistor to protect the fuse, hmmmmm.  Not long after, Data Terminal Systems got bounced around, first it was sold to National Semiconductor, then they were sold to ICL who was in turn sold to Fujitsu, I hope I have that all correct!
  Yes, I am afraid there is more to come..... 


  1. I am finding these blog posts to be very interesting. Finally, someone that remembers the DTS 440. I remember the local P&Cs using the DTS 440. As they got on in years they would lock up but the cashiers figured out that if you hit "ACCT NR" it would unlock whatever was wrong, print the subtotal on the receipt tape and then they could continue on. I once showed that to a cashier at a Great American and she was fascinated. P&C indicated bottle deposits by using the DEPT # key, bottle deposits were dept #1.

    Fays' Drugs in this area had DTS 440s as well and they used department numbers with every item entry. The Kmart in Warren, Pa. had a customized variation of the DTS 440 with the tender keys on the left side of the keyboard - I think they did this to match the NCR keyboard layout used on the registers in other Kmarts. I remember the @/FOR SBTL key being in the same place with "TOTAL CASH" being to the left of it. The receipt also printed CS instead of CA for cash tendered.

    I have a couple of Model 150s in the basement that I'm trying to revive. No idea how to program them and I don't have the key to get one to the programming position. I also have a Sweda Model 46 that is in excellent condition. It's from a grocery store but can't differentiate between taxable and non taxable items like some models I've run across over the years. I'd love to get my hands on the Sweda variation that was used at Ames Dept Stores before the IBMs were moved, those Swedas could handle three digit class numbers as well as double pass items and they printed all the inventory information on optical tape. Wicked cool, can't find one though.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Just reviewing comments and saw yours. I know it is an old comment but thought I would try.
      Sounds like you are or were in the New York state area. Ever hear of DUMAC?

    2. Yep, Central New York near Syracuse. It's nearly impossible to find anything online about DTS register.

  2. One more thing, I remember Quality Markets in Jamestown having the Swedas with the alphanumeric impact printers. Very slow, but very cool. I think the printers in the GTE Comp-Acct machines used in local Burger Kings back in the 70s were the same as the printers in the Sweda POSs.

  3. My first job after high school was at Sweda in Pine Brook NJ. 1976. I was the shipping dept. guy, so if you ever ordered parts, manuals, tech support stuff it was me who sent them to you. I even helped print the advertising and support materials sometimes. As I recall the first computer systems were the size of a washing machine and weighed about the same as one too. I used to play a Star Trek game on them that a programmer had devised. The software and mechanical engineers were there in Pine Brook. I remember one of the engineers was a Dr Wang who was important because he held one of the patents for the early bar code scanner they used. All his shipments were done first! Lol. Enjoy!

  4. Actually the guys name was Dr Wu or Woo, come to think of it....

  5. Oh God the memories. the old DTS 400 Seiko printer that a random spring would fall off and you'd get a call that the printer sounds like a machine gun. the R-Batt 12v battery going bad making the printer run slow, or lock up when the drawer solenoid fired. . The ridiculously long time it took to clear out the 1000 corrupt checks after the memory board was replaced, or the M-Batt battery failed. (what was the name of that memory board?) The crappy design of the check validator in the series 500. Losing the menu button on the series 571, and having to P-Start the machine and key in 0123456789 Clear @ % LF, 0's til it prints, 0 then hit the menu button. why can i remember this 20 years later, but can't remember what I had for lunch?

  6. Memory Board was an EDAC board, (Error Detection and Correction) We renamed it Error Detection and Corruption because if you looked at it the wrong was all the guest checks got corrupted. And there was the ANS-R-TRAN, communication board.

  7. Scouring the net for images of DTS 500 and 2500 registers. In UK they were fitted in all WHSmith, Argos, Habitat and Beatties stores. I worked at Beatties from 1986 to 1994 but they still ran the DTS 500 / 2500 systems until 1999 and they were mighty fine machines. .... except when the master failed and Head Office had not done a pull back so we had to re enter all sales from the journal rolls!!
    If anyone has images or videos of these wonderful registers I'd love to see them. Very fond memories.

    This blog is fascinating - keep it up.

  8. hi everyone! I may be rather late in finding this article,BUT....I HAVE a cash register data terminal systems series 500 I'd like to sell! I originally thought, quite a no. of yrs. ago, that I'd be opening a business of my own where I'd be able to use it, but it never came to be. it's in mint condition & worked last time I knew.

    anyone interested? we live in zip code 13492. ty, Katie

    1. Hello Katie, do you still have the DTS 500?

  9. Is the initial author Dick Dumais? Was he for DTS also in Germany end of 70th? Does he like camels?

  10. Cl 04 shift 0 X LF....I can still program a DTS 220 in my sleep. And a 150,319, and Modified a 400 to run 4 drawers at a hotel after sales sold it. Thank you Bill

    1. In 1979 I worked for DTS Germany in Frankfurt (West Germany). After selling 100.000 ECR DTS, we received a plaque, which also shows a DTS model. This badge I wear on my keys since 1979. It also reminds me of a jolly good time with nice people from DTS United States. Take care!

    2. Series 500 direct memory address write
      X Key On
      mmddyy LF
      P Key On
      xxxx @ 69 LF
      where xxxx is the 4 character hex address for fixing EDAC corrupt records.

  11. In roughly 1989/90 I bought a used DTS 500 (with slip printer) from Walmart when they were upgrading to IBM. There was no documentation, except a note telling how to preform X/Z readings. Somehow using that, I was able figure out how to access the program. Determined to figure it out, after about a week, I was able to change the printer heading. This just made me more determined to figure it out. Shortly after that I accidentally deleted one of the numeric keys, and was no longer able to access the programming. Im not sure, but I think it is still in a closet back in Alabama. Anyone know of anyway of restoring it from a very big paper weight?


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