As I’m doing more research on how long the Singer-Friden MDTS 908 registers were around, I found a couple of shots of the grand opening of Sears in Casper, Wyoming. The store opened in 1982 and it appears installed the MDTS system in the new store.

I know Sears moved from the Singer-Friden registers to NCR 2152s in the 1980s. I was thinking it was around this time, but it must have been a little later in the decade. Of the electronic systems used by Sears, the NCR 2152 must have been around the shortest time, because in late 1991 CompuAdd in Texas designed cash registers for the Sears contract.

So, the Singer system was around for more than a decade (most likely with upgrades in the backend), the NCR system probably barely made it a decade, the CompuAdd systems were around for 10 years and the IBM SurePOS registers from the early 2000s are still around in the few remaining stores.

Customers line up at the registers during the grand opening of Sears in the Eastridge Mall in Oct. 1982. (Casper Star-Tribune Collection, Casper College Western History Center)
Customers line up in the hardware department at Sears in Eastridge Mall during its grand opening in Oct. 1982. (Casper Star-Tribune Collection, Casper College Western History Center)

The technology “inspiration” photo that hangs in my office

While surfing around on the internet I found some newish photos of the Singer-Friden 908 Cash Register. The find made my heart leap because while the photos were on worthpoint.com, they indicated the source of the listing was eBay. Alas, I could not find a corresponding auction on eBay, because I would certainly go just about anywhere in the lower 48 states to pick up one of these cash registers. They’re in my “top five” of electronic point of sale system geekiness and probably one of the very first systems that caught my attention.

The Singer 908 ran on 2K of RAM. Developed in the late 1960s after Singer purchased Friden, these cash registers were typically found in Sears, JC Penney, and other department store chains. The numeric display showed only numbers; operator guidance was provided through the buttons lighting up in sequence of the program. The back-end system supporting this register was the Singer System Ten. The cash register terminal initiated all communication with the System Ten, communicating over a two-wire connected pair at 1200 baud. All math operations were done locally at the register, the backend provided a credit authorization option and collected all the data from the terminal. Data was traditionally transmitted at the end of the day, but busier locations could schedule interval reports to the back office.

The Singer system was the first fully electronic point of sale system used by Sears. Curiously, I found a photo of a Walmart that also used the Singer system. The first generation of electronic cash registers at Walmart were made by several different manufacturers, NCR and Data Terminal Systems, and apparently, also Singer. The registers are easy to identify with their sleek, “sci-fi” design.

Notice the slight differences in the register above and the register at the bottom of this post. The picture above has a small “friden” logo and “data terminal” in lower case letters, the register at the bottom omits the “friden” logo and instead has “Data Terminal”. The register in the photo at the top of this post omits the “SINGER” name badge.

Here’s an example of a receipt from the Singer register at Sears. The registers were used by the chain into the early 1980s. In fact, I remember one of these registers still in the hardware department at the key duplication station in 1990 at our local Sears store.

I have a marketing brochure that describes how the Modular Data Transaction System was designed to work.

MDTS

Here’s some close up photos of the Singer 908 as found on worthpoint.com.