Walk Down Memory Lane

Jim and Ruth's MarketBy Russ Ward

A recent Sports Illustrated magazine was devoted to the long-forgotten sports Icons and answered the question: “Where are they now?” The subjects of the various magazine articles included Ernie Banks, the best player ever to have to suffer an entire career with the Chicago Cubs, to the famous for being so bad - 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The one thing that each of the people or groups profiled had in common is they were famous at least for a fleeting moment in time. Some were famous because they were true greats that faded from the limelight like Dan and Dave, the best American hope for Olympic Decathlon gold in the 1992 games. Others were famous because they were somewhat great, but had “personality” like the famed Dallas Cowboy lineman, the rotund Nate Newton.

Each of these athletes or teams had their moment in the sun, when they were at the top of their game, even if they weren’t the best the league had to offer. Then, as is the custom now, when they wore down and their personalities could not hide the fact of their decline, they retired or were retired and replaced, usually by better and younger.  

Only a person obsessed would read an edition like that and think about point of sale systems; however, that is where my mind drifted. If you have any age to you at all, you can recall the old Data Terminal Systems (DTS) machines. Almost every restaurant of note had the familiar “chachunk ding” of that register as it spit open its drawer. The DTS 400 was a staple in those days. Of course those in the grocery end of the cash register business can fondly recall the DTS 440.  Jim and Ruth’s Market rang up a lot of bologna and pot pies with a 440. Their location was near a university I attended longer ago than I would like to remember.  

These were the cutting edge machines of their time. They were built to last; tough, dependable, easy to use and easy to fix if they broke down. Also, because everyone had them, parts were everywhere and a cinch to get.  The sixties and seventies truly were the heyday for the cash register. They were relatively inexpensive so almost any retail store could afford them and as a result they became a solid part of a growing business. Computers were huge in size in those days, unaffordable and simply not practical yet, so the register did all the heavy lifting.

But, time marches forward and now Jim and Ruth’s is closed, their obsolete register, no doubt rotting in a landfill. And the old workhorse, the DTS 440, can now only be found in antique stores collecting dust, forced into retirement by something better and younger. But, that is the nature of progress. Despite the plusses of the old registers, their time has come and gone and for good cause. Now, the register is replaced in grocery stores by fully integrated point of sale systems that can provide the grocer with instantaneous access to a plethora of information that can help make a grocery store more profitable. Just like the athletes of days gone by, the familiar ring and the old well-worn mechanical gears have been replaced, but at least for a few of us have not been forgotten.