The Point of Serial at the Point of Sale

Nowhere more than at the point of sale are customers so directly in touch with a vendor's technology. Impressions of a business are at stake here: no customer wants to buy from a company whose handling of their money makes them nervous. Transactions must go smoothly and reliably, record-keeping must be impeccable, and security is mandatory.

This is why serial ports are so much a part of Point of Sale (POS) and transaction processing technology. Manufacturers of the hardware that does the job at the point of sale know that serial ports will do that job well, no questions asked. Electronic cash registers are loaded with serial ports most people never see; essential POS peripherals such as bar code scanners, scales, and printers are connected on serial ports; and payment processing has long relied on serial interfacing at key points in the end-to-end flow of transaction information.

These flows are not big: unlike the ever-burgeoning demand for more bandwidth to carry video, music, and voice, the needs of POS are limited and stable. A transaction is just a few numbers, but counts for a lot. Perfect for serial connection. So serial interfacing is not rocket science, and that's a good thing.



Cash registers are no longer just ways of opening and closing a cash drawer and printing a receipt. Modern Electronic Cash Registers (ECRs) are much more: they are an interface to the lifeblood of a business, recording in real time the details of customers' purchasing habits, sales information, employee performance, product inventory, and much more.

Leaving all this information languishing in a cash register makes no sense. More and more often organizations are accessing and analyzing this data. As operations develop multiple locations and grow into chains and often franchises, the information gathered by the ECR provides the basis for the essential metrics needed in advanced business planning.

Geography poses a challenge to the efficient collection of ECR data, and so various methods of consolidating the information of remotely-located ECRs have evolved. The most effective means uses the Internet, making modem polling obsolete.

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We're pretty used to finding our data ports also supplying power to the attached peripheral: it's always been there for USB, FireWire, and eSATA, and now Ethernet and serial ports are getting in to the mix. 

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Over the years LAVA has amassed a substantial archive of material on serial port technology (along information on other interfaces) in its newsletter LINK. Back issues are available here.

B&B Electronics has built an excellent repository of serial-related materials covering RS-232, RS-422, RS-485, and other related topics. Matched to its business, B&B's technical library has a distinctly industrial orientation.

All About Serial

Welcome to an informational web site sponsored by LAVA Computer MFG. Inc. Detailed information on LAVA and its products can be found at

LAVA Computer MFG. Inc.
2 Vulcan Street, Toronto