I have received a couple of e-mails because I haven’t blogged in a few days. Nothing is wrong, but I live by the philosophy that you shouldn’t type it into a computer if you don’t want it to appear on the front page of the New York Times. Life outside of work has been good but work has been very hectic and right now it would be best if I didn’t vent needlessly on that right now. All is well. Now onto my scheduled programming.
Behind this suave and irresistibly cute exterior lies the heart of a geek. I have always been a geek. I have always found interest in the things that most find mundane. Much of my geek focus is on technology and my love of computers, however, I was geek long before computers were commonplace, and one of my early interests (that eventually led me to computers) was cash registers.
Standing in line at your favorite supermarket and other store today is a relatively quiet experience, aside from the bad sounding muzak, bellows of price check requests over the PA system and the cry of a cranky baby. One hardly notices the sound of the cash register these days, aside from the confirmation beep of a successful scanning of an item. However, when I was a kid, the same atmosphere was augmented by the sounds of the mechanical cash registers. There was no scanning, there was rarely change computation and there was no self-service checkout lane.
Back in the day a usually nice clerk or cashier rang up your order on a big mechanical adding machine with a drawer attached. Some were even lucky to keep working if the power went out, they just attached a crank to the side and did the same thing with a little bit of elbow grease.
I have always had an interest in mechanical cash registers. I discovered them very early on in my childhood. I noticed that the big NCR cash registers at the P & C (grocery store) were the same as the cash registers at the Mattydale K-mart. I noticed that the registers at the new (at the time) Ames store were the same as the ones at Westons Department Store except Ames had three rows of department keys and Westons only had two. The theory behind their operation was the same and by third or fourth grade I pretty much had it figured out how to work these registers. Without looking at the checkstands I could tell by the sound of the register if it was made by NCR or Sweda. Swedas were my favourite. They ‘sounded’ crisper and a little more modern. Back in 2005, Earl and I were visiting a market in Toronto with our friends Steve and Tim and over the sounds of the open air type vendor thing they had going on, I heard the distinct sound of a Sweda cash register. I said to Earl, “I know that sound” and I led him over to where I heard it and proudly said, “see, it’s a Sweda cash register.”
He didn’t think I was crazy, he just grinned in the way he does when he knows he has a geek for a husband.
Now I have had my school clock collection going for 10 or 11 years. It’s working brilliantly, all the clocks look great and I had the variety I wanted to collect from the specific manufacturer that I had my eye on (The Standard Electric Time Company of Springfield, Mass.) A couple of weeks ago I decided that it was time to move into another hobby – the restoration of a mechanical cash register made by Sweda. I took a look on ebay and found one reasonably priced that wasn’t located too far away. These registers really can’t be shipped because they’re way too heavy.
Today we took a drive into the Catskill Mountains and picked up the first (of several?) cash register for my restoration project.
Introducing my Sweda Model 46.
This register is nearly identical to the register that was used at the locally owned “Red and White” supermarket that was down the street from my parents’ house. I’m guessing it was manufactured sometime in the mid 1960s. It needs some work and it’s missing the key that unlocks the journal tape but other than that it’s a good way to tinker and learn a little bit about these machines. And it’s wicked heavy.
I have had it here at the house for about an hour and I just figured out how to route the receipt tape so that it shoots out when the drawer opens. It’s adding everything correctly and seems to be mechanically sound. It can be used electrically or by crank but I haven’t tried the crank yet.
This is my new project that will take me off the grid and away from technology for the times when my brain needs to defrag. I’m very excited about it.
I’m a very excited geek tonight.