The Tiller Girls

The term ‘Till’ takes many forms; it’s used to describe unstratified soil deposited by a glacier consisting of sand, clay, gravel and boulders mixed together. Also, a public treasury for government funds is referred to as a till and of course you can till the soil. Let’s also not forget the good old fashioned cash box or, as it is today, the POS terminals, which are electronic devices for calculating and recording sales transactions with attached cash drawers for storing money.

Before the till, one of the earliest inventions for keeping track of commercial transactions was the abacus, which was invented over 4,500 years ago in the middle-east. The forerunner of today’s POS terminals, the cash register, was invented in 1879 by James Ritty, a saloonkeeper in Dayton, Ohio. He introduced a much more secure machine than was previously available and called it his “Incorruptible Cashier.” Ritter then sold his patent rights to John H Patterson, who, recognising its potential, put it into production in 1884 under the newly formed company, National Cash Register (NCR).

By the middle of the 19th century, cash drawers, with their dividers to hold notes and coins, were a common feature of retail establishments all over the world. Today, modern POS terminals enjoy wide market penetration, incorporating a host of integrated office systems. Now, what about the people who operate them? In the first instance, you have the shop assistant or checkout operative whose job it is to look after customers, process their transactions and generally be courteous and helpful, although the last characteristic is optional. Then, you have all the back office, marketing and general management functions, all relying on information retrieved by the POS terminal.

All this talk of tills and operators brings to mind yet another term involving the ‘Till’ word – the Tiller Girls. To think that a gentleman from Manchester, called John Tiller, created the first Tiller dance troupe in 1890, which grew into a high-kicking routine performed by thousands of Tiller Girls in theatres in Paris, London and New York. Allegedly, the steps and look of the Tiller Girls was inspired by the famous Lippizaner stallions. Today’s till can’t boast of such a colourful conception.

Read the original POS terminals article.

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