Cash registers are dumb. Why do we still have them?
Invented in 1879 to keep saloon employees from stealing, the cash register combines the functions of a calculator to add up the purchases and a lockbox to keep cash safe.
It assumes that retail employees have no verifiable way to add up numbers. And it assumes customers are paying in cash. Nowadays, most people have a smartphone and pay electronically. So the assumptions are gone. Yet cash registers remain.
The success of online retail demonstrates that you don’t need a Victorian-era contraption to sell things. You can do it all electronically.
But brick-and-mortar retail stores have a problem that online stores don’t: shoplifting. Without a cashier verifying the purchase and providing a paper receipt, it’s hard to stop some people from just taking stuff and walking out without paying.