Point of Sale – or POS – specifically refers to the location where a transaction occurs. This can be a checkout counter at a merchant, a retail shop, or any other location where a transaction occurs. Point of sale is also often used as a sort of shorthand to refer to a Point Of Sale Terminal, which is the hardware and software used for sales transaction checkouts at a retail location or online store.
Point of sale systems are widely used in virtually all contemporary grocery stores, restaurants, hotels, department stores and gas stations, as well as almost any type of retail establishment.
One of the very first equivalents to the modern POS system was the early electronic cash register or ECR. These were all programmed in proprietary software and had limited functionality and discreet communications capability. In late1973, the IBM Corporation announced the IBM 3650 and 3660 Store Systems that were a mainframe computer packaged as an individual store controller that could control over a hundred IBM POS registers. This system made the first commercial use of client-server technology, Local Area Network (LAN), simultaneous backup and remote initialization. By the middle of the following year, these systems were installed in some Pathmark stores and Dillard’s department stores.
In the late 1970′s, the Old Canal Cafe in Syracuse, New York used POS software written by owner Gene Mosher that ran on an Apple II personal computer to take customer orders at the restaurant’s front entrance and print complete food preparation details for the back kitchen. This would greatly expedite the entire restaurant experience for customers and staff alike. Customers would often proceed to their tables to find their food waiting for them already. This software included food cost and real time labor reports. By the mid-1980′s, Gene Mosher went ahead and used the Atari ST computer to create and market the very first graphic touchscreen POS software.
Today, in the post-millennial modern electronics age, vendors and retailers are working their way towards standardizing the development of computerized POS systems and simplify interconnecting POS devices. Two of these include OPOS and JavaPOS, both systems of which conform to the UnifiedPOS standard led by what is known as The National Retail Foundation.
In 1996, OPOS was the first adopted standard POS system, which was developed and manufactured by Microsoft, Epson, NCR Corporation and Fujitsu-ICL. OPOS is a COM-based interface compatible with everyCOM-enabled program languages for Microsoft Windows. In 1997, JavaPOS was developed by Sun Microsystems, IBM and NCR Corporation in and later released in 1999. JavaPOS is for Java what OPOS is for Windows, and therefore considered platform independent.
Online POS systems can run on any computer with an internet connection, without software installations or updates. These systems run on secure servers in multiple data centers with real-time memory backups.
Modern hospitality POS systems have revolutionized the entire restaurant industry worldwide. This especially true in fast food sales and service. A vast majority of franchised restaurant chains employ systems that use computer networks. In this setting, sales checkout registers are essentially virtual computers, most of which employ touch screens. Like the early 1970′s IBM Store Systems, these connect to an in-store or remote server, often referred to as a “central control unit” or a “store controller.” Printers and monitors are also found within the network. Remote servers connect to comprehensive store networks that monitor sales and other crucial store data. The incredible efficiency of such newer systems have drastically cut customer service times down and greatly increased the overall efficiency of orders processed.
Specifically in the fast food industry, a number of configurations have been used to aid in the speed of overall operations. Cash registers may be placed in the front service counter, drive through or walk through, allowing cashiering and order taking modes. Front counter cash registers may take and serve orders at the very same terminal. Drive through registers, on the other hand, typically allow sales orders to be taken at one or more drive through windows, while cashiered and served at other windows. Additionally, drive through and kitchen monitors are often used by in-house personnel to view orders. Drive through systems are often enhanced by the use of wireless headset systems that enable communications though drive-thru speakers between customers and kitchen staff.
Currently, major point of sale systems are manufactured and serviced by several corporations. Point of sales systems in most restaurant environments operate on DOS, Windows or Unix environments. While the Ethernet is currently the most preferred system, POS systems can operate within a variety of physical layer protocols.