Data Terminal Systems.

From Shutterstock

In 1979 our local grocery store, which we called “the P&C” and was actually called “P&C Foods”, upgraded their checkout systems from the venerable mechanical NCR Class 5 cash registers to Electronic Cash Registers made by Data Terminal Systems of Maynard, Massachusetts. I’ve included a photo of the type of cash register above; photo courtesy of a screen cap from a Shutterstock video. I don’t know who the cashier is, and the video is from another grocery store somewhere else in the country, but she seems friendly enough.

The P&C installed Data Terminal Systems Model 440 cash registers. These electronic cash registers replaced the functions of their mechanical predecessors in that prices were still entered by the cashier, departments were selected, and there was no scanning available at the time. Other store chains in the area had these new electronic cash registers as well and being the young geek I was at the time, I was able to identify by the printing on the receipt whether the store in question went with the “Series 400” cash registers or the more simplistic (but still quite capable) “Series 300” cash registers. I do remember the Series 400 cash registers were able to do rudimentary price look ups; at “The P&C”, a “53 PL#” followed by a price on the receipt meant my mother bought a loaf of Wonder Bread. After the “53 PL#” was a price, like “.99 GR”. Nowhere did it indicate this was a loaf of bread, it was something I had to figure out for myself.

I was fascinated with these electronic cash registers and through hours and hours of careful studying of the receipts my mother left in the bottom of grocery bags, I was able to figure out how these cash registers worked. A watchful eye of cashiers at work helped my observational understanding. Two cashiers at “the P&C” were a favorite; one was named Delores and she was a gangly sort of young woman always stationed on Register . Another, a woman by the name of Betty Brown, was the personification of a sigh; she always seemed resigned to her job and she was usually on Register . She didn’t move as quickly on the DTS 440 as Delores did on Register .

There isn’t a lot of information online about Data Terminal Systems of Maynard, Mass. My scant research has revealed that it was led by a pilot by the name of Bob Collins of Stow, Mass. From what I am able to gather, he left Digital Equipment Corporation, also of Maynard, Mass. (and a company I worked for in the late 1980s) and struck out on his own after Sears & Roebuck approach Digital to have them computerize their point of sale operations and CEO and founder Ken Olsen turned down the opportunity. Apparently Mr. Collins felt there was ample opportunity for Electronic Cash Registers that were able to chat with one another in the marketplace, and he, along with other DECcies, formed Data Terminal Systems.

At one time I had a large collection of receipts from these cash registers, as I saved that sort of thing while I studied them, but I believe they have long been lost. After all, it’s been decades.

I would love to find one of the cash registers in a thrift store or flea market to see if I can figure out how they tick. From the little information available online about DTS, I believe they were 4-bit machines, with processors made by Rockwell. The earlier models didn’t have scanning, but all models were designed to by upgraded to a more powerful model by field personnel. I do know they had “Star Trek (The Original Series)” look to them and I found them very nifty. I can still hear the distinct sounds of the Seiko EP-101 (later known as “Epson”) printer in my head.

My search continues for equipment by Data Terminal Systems. I hope to create a website dedicated to the memories and information of this company that started the Electronic Cash Register revolution as we know it today.

Maybe one day I’ll stumble across one of these registers at a flea market here in Chicago. I know these machines are what got me started in computers to begin with.

Prosperity.

Shell Oil pioneered the “neighborhood service station” beginning in 1958 when they introduced their ranch style buildings. As part of what we now call the “Mid-Century Modern” era, this design has always reminded me of what I’ve read about the mid 50s and early 60s: it was an era of prosperity and the United States was reaching for the stars. If you were part of a middle-class, white American family with 2.45 children, a house in the suburbs, and a white picket fence around your carefully tended-to lawn, you had it good.

At least this is what I’ve read.

Societal analysis aside, I’ve always loved the architecture from this part of the 20th century. Here’s an original Shell station without 21st century improvements:

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mark Potter and was found via a Google search

Shell stations like this were found all over the place near where I grew up in Upstate New York until Shell Oil left the area in the late 1970s. Many of the buildings still stand (at least the last time I was there), though they’ve been rebranded by another oil company or have been repurposed as something else. The Shell station of this design closest to my grandparents in the city was turned into a Jreck Sub shortly before I started driving in 1984. The chimney on that building remained, usually it’s removed as part of renovations, as seen in the top photo I took today on the corner of California and Fullerton here in Chicago.

While there’s nothing physically “space age” about Shell Oil or these ranch style buildings, I can’t help but think of the aforementioned space age prosperity of the time. Society seemed more hopeful.

Hope is a good thing.

Time.

It’s 1:09 PM Central as I write this. I’ve been to this Starbucks before; I’m near Logan Square. This particular clock doesn’t move and the one on the other side does its own thing, but it does move. Someday I’m going to mention to one of the baristas that I could fix these clocks for them, but then I wonder if they’re like this to prompt blog entries.

I was scheduled to fly this afternoon but it’s too windy. My husband is working the Cubs games this weekend, so I’m out exploring and getting some exercise. It’s a very relaxing weekend.

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Snapshots.

I find living in the third largest city of the United States to be inspiring. I love taking little snapshots of where we are.

Trained Geek.

Three points of geekdom:

  1. Yes, I wrote an iOS Shortcut to easily record every train I ride on the ‘L’.
  2. Sometimes I ride the same car twice in one day
  3. Sometimes I hop cars at an intermediate stop, usually on the Red Line, because well, it’s the Red Line.

Efficiency.

I am at our local Starbucks. In celebration of Good Friday and Easter weekend, I let the team leave early today and I followed my own cue and called it a day a little while ago. Earl is at work, so I’m headed out to go exploring.

It’s 42ºF and the wind is gusting to 35 MPH, so it’s a bit chilly. Hence a cup of coffee before I go walking.

I was second in line when waiting to place my orders; in front of me was a young woman who was having a bit of a struggle with placing her order. She wanted sips for testing, she asked for many foams, squirts, and other associated potions to be added to her brew. She spoke loudly and she strove to engage the attention of at least three of the baristas behind the counter. Meeting her needs was a team effort.

Living in Chicago I take great delight in silently watching how folks use their smartphones, especially if they’re using an Apple device. The woman in front of me had an iPhone of indeterminate model type as it was bedazzled and bejeweled in several ways. The only way I knew it was an iPhone was from the placement of the camera and the way the icons were arranged on her screen. Like a good digital citizen, she was paying for her demanding order with the Starbucks app. I watched her as she flicked through six screens of icons, the vast majority of them folders where multiple apps lived together, waiting for their next opportunity give her user magic.

Apparently her filing methods with multiple folders has a flaw because she was really struggling to find the Starbucks app to pay. This was adding to the frustration of my wait. It took every ounce of my being to not scream out “double click the button and grab it in your Wallet”! Folks do realize they can add their Starbucks card to the very convenient Apple Wallet and access it there, right? I then countered in my head that there was a good chance that she was going to use a reward and I’m not familiar with the handling of Starbucks Frequent Flyer points in the wallet app. As I was processing this in my mind, I noticed she was still flicking through multiple screens, opening and closing folders, looking for the coveted Starbucks app. I then convinced myself to not scream out “pull down from the top and start typing Starbucks!”. I’ve observed that many do not realize there’s a search function built right there into iOS. They hunt and peck and flick and stab at their phone looking for the icon off the app they’re searching for, when all they need to do is pull down from the top of the screen and type the name of the app. Once they do that, voila, there’s the icon they’re looking for.

Eventually “Jody” (I saw her name emblazoned on the screen when she stabbed and opened the wrong app at one point of her quest) found the Starbucks app and told the barista she wanted to use a reward. Ugh. Starbucks changed their reward system on tax day and you now need more points to get what you used to get for less points. Earl and I discovered this earlier in the week, and I just knew that like us, she didn’t know about the change in policy.

She didn’t.

So then she didn’t have enough money on her card to pay but she was pretty efficient in refilling her card. It looks like she used ApplePay to accomplish the card refill, so there is that. All is not lost.

This whole endeavor got me to wondering as to how many folks only know the basics of using their phones. There’s so many things you can do with an iOS device (or an Android device for that matter), but folks only use the basics of stabbing at icons, typing on a keyboard, and flicking to scroll. There’s so many ways to search, find, and use applications. Apple has given us many ways to make using our iDevices as quick and as effortless as possible. It just takes a bit of experience and a dash of education.

Perhaps more people need to attend one of the “Today At Apple” seminars or something.

Reports.

So a (redacted) version of the Mueller Report was released for public consumption today. Lots of people that know nothing have plenty to say about the report. No one reports facts, everyone spins an opinion. If I continue down this line of thought I’ll end up frothing at the mouth with anger so I’ll keep it light.

All I’m going to say is this. We all know that Trump constantly lies. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders admitted to lying when interviewed by Mueller and team. If this alone doesn’t bother you, there is nothing I can say that’s going to change your feelings or your mind or your allegiance to a “side” that is determined to destroy this country.

There is no moral compass. There are no standards. The bar cannot get any lower. There is no bar.

I will read the (redacted) report this weekend. I will not allow it to throw me over the edge.

We’re already there.