Linux on a cash register
Rambling Thoughts

My mom bought a bunch of cash registers for her new store. The registers were very new, and she got them for like $30 each. A great deal, when you consider that they came with 14" Optiquest monitors. They are nice systems I guess. I don't have a lot of experience with cash registers, never having worked in retail. But they have all the normal cash register-ish stuff: a steel platform where the cash draw sits (and which holds a smallish keyboard), a thermal receipt printer, a monitor, and a little LED-display-on-a-stick thing which shows people how much their total is.

When I was out in Phoenix last weekend, my brother Trey and I got to talking about them. Turns out that he has the job of building these registers into point-of-sale system for the new store. Kind of a daunting task. I mean, what are they, little embedded StrongARM deals running QNIX? He had one in his car and I went out to look at it. To my surprise, the "cash register" was basically a wee little tiny PC. So I had to take one apart. Trey let me have one of them to play with and I brought it back with me. Tracy was very polite when I told her that I have a cash register for my office.

I did a Google search and found the manufacturer's product page. Sadly, my unit doesn't have the keyboard with the colored keys, just a cheap Taiwanese one. And I don't have the barcode scanner. So I hooked up my Cue:Cat instead. How could I have a cash register and not be able to scan things!?! And the Cue:Cat has been sitting on my shelf waiting for a project anyway (although I once wrote a perl script which decodes it's input, that doesn't have any real world applications -- not like a real working cash register, anyway).

Oh, and I didn't get the cash drawer. They were buried in my mom's warehouse and I was in a hurry. But I'm going to get one next week when I drive out again. And why do I want the actual cash drawer? Well, if I'm going to help build the POS system, then I need to get the drawer part working. And I found the little port on the printer (called a "kick-out" port) that opens the drawer, and that gave me an idea: I want to have my cash register checking my main POP account. When I get mail, I want it to print the message's headers on the thermal printer and open the cash drawer (the drawers have a loud bell, so that'll be a good notification).

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