The Best of Creative Computing Volume 1 (published 1976)

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Why Supermarkets Are Going Bananas Over Computers (from United Airlines Mainliner Magazine, 1974)

graphic of page

Why Supermarkets Are Going Bananas Over Computers
by Chris Barnett
Better profits in the long run and shorter lines at the checkstand.  Will it
Really Work?

One Saturday late last June, Jim and Sharon Roberts of Troy, Ohio, noticed
something strange when they walked into Marsh's Supermarket to do their weekly
shopping.  The checkers weren't pounding on the cash registers like they
normally do.  Instead they were simply sliding each item across a smoky glass
window build into the newly installed checkstands.

Just by passing the item across the glass, the price automatically appeared on a
readout sign, the untouched cash register recorded the sale and the register
tape spelled out each item purchased, sometimes by brand name, along with the

The Robertses quickly discovered that their neighborhood supermarket had been
turned into a laboratory:  National Cash Register Company and Marsh's
Supermarkets, Incorporated, had select the Troy store to test some unusual new
equipment.  An electronic scanner that automatically "reads" code affixed to
every item in the store, feeds everything it reads into a computer in the
backroom and gives manager Earl Frysinger a mountain of facts and figures
designed to help him run the store more effectively and more profitably had
replaced the good old cash register.

What's more, the test results at the Marsh's store, together with findings of
other market tests of additional scanning equipment around the country, are
destined to have a devastating impact--not only on the lives of millions of
American shoppers but on the entire grocery industry--wholesalers and retailers
as well as the manufacturers of every item you find on your foodstore's shelves.

Overstatement?  Figure it out for yourself.  At this very moment salesmen for
over a dozen of the nation's biggest or most aggressive business machine and
data processing equipment makers are amorously courting retail food chains to
persuade them to computerize their checkout systems, indeed the entire store
operation--from buying to inventory control to cash flow.

The retailers, cautious but not all that skeptical, recognize they can no

Reprinted courtesy United Airlines Mainliner Magazine.  Copyright 1974 East/West
Network, Inc.

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