25 things vanishing in America, part 2: The ka-ching of the cash register

KaChing - It's a synonym for making money. The sound of the cash register ringing up a sale.

Lots of people still say it, but some of them don't know its origins because they have never heard the real thing.

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, home of National Cash Register, a company whose brand was synonymous with cash registers. My grandpa, my dad, my aunt, and many of the fathers of my friends worked at what most of us called, "The Cash," Dayton's largest employer during the early- to mid-20th century.

When I was 15, my dad got me a job cashiering for the local department store. It was like playing the piano, Once I knew where the keys were, I touched them quickly and blindly. After I'd punched in all the items, I'd hit the Total bar with my fist.

The machine sang triumphantly as if celebrating the sale, "KaChing."

Running a cash register fast bought me my first car and kept gas in it. KaChing.

It paid all my Ohio State University tuition. KaChing.

It even covered the rent when I took my first lousy-paying newspaper reporting job. KaChing.

Cash registers that go "KaChing" have been replaced by silent computers. Or self-checkout machines whose nasal artificial voices annoy me more than help when they whine, "Don't forget to take your change."

Sure, I appreciate the accuracy and speed of the point-of-sale computers that tally up my purchases and process my credit card, but I sometimes miss the old NCR 2000s that for nearly 50 years kept retail stores alive with the sound of the cash changing hands.

I could operate one of those at top speed and got paid more than $2 an hour at age 16 to do it. That's almost $12 an hour in today's inflated dollars. Not bad for a friendly but inexperienced kid in high school.

KaChing, KaChing, KaChing.


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