Supermarkets, point-of-sale, and nostalgia

For me, nothing dredges up nostalgia, curiosity, and the longing for a time and zeitgeist I barely remember and will never experience again like the mere mention of supermarket chains long defunct. In Rhode Island, Almacs was the standard bearer since long before my time. I was only five years old when they closed, I also remember my mother taking us to an A&P that I believe had only recently opened.

The grocery business, especially in the northeastern US, has always been a cutthroat one. Consolidation is the end state. This is late-stage capitalism at its finest 🤢. In Rhode Island, we have only three “traditional” regional chain grocers operating (Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, and recent local entrant Market Basket). I exclude Dave’s from this list because they only operate in RI, and have come to occupy a more upscale position in the grocery roost here. And even Stop & Shop is owned by Foodhold. I’m not really sure what my point is, here, except that things have changed, and while consumerism generally isn’t great, it’s even worse when the consumerism is enabled by a single company that owns everything.

More germane to this blog, however, is the technology. I am sure many of you will remember what the old scanners used to look like, with the asterisk-shaped apertures (I cannot seem to find any images of them, unfortunately). There appears to be scant little about old POS technology online at all, for that matter. There is a page about old 70s NCR terminals on the linked site about the NCR 705 mini, and some photos on Flickr that just bring you back. And, has appeared since I was last researching this particular topic, and appears to be a great resource.

I wish I could find a working example of an NCR 255 anywhere. It had an 8080 in it, and could download programming from the mini. I’ll have to check at the Rhode Island Computer Museum to see if they have any in the warehouse, or the 705 to run it. It would be quite cool to see working.

Posted on October 31, 2021