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Michaeldim
Jan 29, 2011

:byodood:


I've been trying to study the history of early electronic cash registers. A large part if this has been IBM's POS offerings over the years. Ultimately, I wanted to get a working 4690 based POS system up and running to experiment with. Anybody who has worked with the system or has any information on how/if a random enthusiast can get a system up and running.



Here's some of what I have so far if you're curious:

Only shortly after the release of the IBM PC and XT, IBM decided to create a PC based cash register system. They wrote their own operating system for this task. 4680. It's based on something called FlexOS, a multitasking disk operating system.

Cool hardware:


It used a bunch of terminals attached to a central controller. The terminals are actually diskless PCs that load their OS from the controller. This OS would then run any of a number of point of sale applications.

Into the 90's, 4680 was replaced by 4690, which is an evolution of the same system. This OS continues to be used today by many retailers, the biggest being WalMart. 4690 just keeps getting updated to support the modern times, software has been updated again and again, to support new things like touchscreens, gift cards, EMV, Realtime statistics, etc. So it's become this very bizarre anachronistic mix of technology. It'll happily run a sorta modern touch system, or it'll still run a simple keyboard and VFD setup with no monitor. It still has an 8 character limit on filenames ffs.



I think the thought of a major system that runs an OS that isn't Windows, Linux, or Unix in 2016 to be kinda nuts and awesome. Also the way 4690 is so well integrated with all the hardware is really neat.

I even have a working terminal, but there's no software to go with. I made a video about it a while ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSC1sLKLYMM

I've plumbed the internet for almost all the available information. Believe me, there isn't much. Unfortunately, Toshiba has locked almost all the publications behind a secure site, so there isn't much to go on.

I think this is kinda an important part of computer history and someone should try and preserve info about it. I'm sure there's someone who has worked with this professionally, I'd love to know more about this system.

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Thanks Ants
May 21, 2004

#essereFerrari




I can't help you much with the technical aspects of it, but I worked for a retailer in the early 2000s that ran off the IBM ePOS systems. When I was there it was all running small LCD non-touch displays and OS/2, gradually changing to a Windows XP with what I think was a J2EE application to perform the actual ePOS role, with an IR touchscreen.

Those SureMarks with the cheque endorsement bring back memories. When we moved to XP we switched to new printers and stopped accepting cheque payment. They seemed pretty reliable but maybe we just maintained them well.

Does this help http://ps-2.kev009.com/ohlandl/4683/pos_index.html

Michaeldim
Jan 29, 2011

:byodood:


That actually has some publications that aren't available from IBM/Toshiba anymore, very cool, thanks!

Aunt Beth
Feb 23, 2006

Baby, you're ready!

Grimey Drawer

I've worked with 4690 before. What are your goals with getting a test system up and running? It's really just a bone-simple DOS interface on the backend to support the diskless boot of the terminals and then handle sales data.

Mo_Steel
Mar 7, 2008

Let's Clock Into The Sunset Together



Fun Shoe

Michaeldim posted:

I've been trying to study the history of early electronic cash registers. A large part if this has been IBM's POS offerings over the years. Ultimately, I wanted to get a working 4690 based POS system up and running to experiment with. Anybody who has worked with the system or has any information on how/if a random enthusiast can get a system up and running.



Here's some of what I have so far if you're curious:

Only shortly after the release of the IBM PC and XT, IBM decided to create a PC based cash register system. They wrote their own operating system for this task. 4680. It's based on something called FlexOS, a multitasking disk operating system.

Cool hardware:


It used a bunch of terminals attached to a central controller. The terminals are actually diskless PCs that load their OS from the controller. This OS would then run any of a number of point of sale applications.

Into the 90's, 4680 was replaced by 4690, which is an evolution of the same system. This OS continues to be used today by many retailers, the biggest being WalMart. 4690 just keeps getting updated to support the modern times, software has been updated again and again, to support new things like touchscreens, gift cards, EMV, Realtime statistics, etc. So it's become this very bizarre anachronistic mix of technology. It'll happily run a sorta modern touch system, or it'll still run a simple keyboard and VFD setup with no monitor. It still has an 8 character limit on filenames ffs.



I think the thought of a major system that runs an OS that isn't Windows, Linux, or Unix in 2016 to be kinda nuts and awesome. Also the way 4690 is so well integrated with all the hardware is really neat.

I even have a working terminal, but there's no software to go with. I made a video about it a while ago:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSC1sLKLYMM

I've plumbed the internet for almost all the available information. Believe me, there isn't much. Unfortunately, Toshiba has locked almost all the publications behind a secure site, so there isn't much to go on.

I think this is kinda an important part of computer history and someone should try and preserve info about it. I'm sure there's someone who has worked with this professionally, I'd love to know more about this system.

Oh man if you had posted this about 6 months ago, I think I tore out 2 4694s when we transitioned to Windows 7 and they were sitting until we finally junked them over the summer. It's "neat" that it's all bundled together, except that it makes them a real bastard to carry. It doesn't look like we have any documentation on them anymore, which isn't surprising; maybe there are some truly ancient binders in existence in a file cabinet somewhere, I'll keep an eye out.

Unfortunately I don't have much to offer in terms of working with them, as I got hired on a few months before we pulled out those last two ancient ones. I want to say the 4694 wasn't running their OS, but instead had XP running on it.

Mo_Steel fucked around with this message at 04:24 on Feb 8, 2016

Michaeldim
Jan 29, 2011

:byodood:


Aunt Beth posted:

I've worked with 4690 before. What are your goals with getting a test system up and running? It's really just a bone-simple DOS interface on the backend to support the diskless boot of the terminals and then handle sales data.

I would hope to get my hands on one of the sales programs IBM wrote, like SurePOS ACE or the General sales application.

But if I can't, I'm sure I could do something with just the OS, if I could boot terminals with it.

Newer 4690 versions support VMWare as a controller, with that, I could boot my real register as a terminal.

Aunt Beth
Feb 23, 2006

Baby, you're ready!

Grimey Drawer

Michaeldim posted:

I would hope to get my hands on one of the sales programs IBM wrote, like SurePOS ACE or the General sales application.

But if I can't, I'm sure I could do something with just the OS, if I could boot terminals with it.

Newer 4690 versions support VMWare as a controller, with that, I could boot my real register as a terminal.
Ah. Yeah that's really hard to come by. One of my customers works with a very highly modified version and it's nothing they could or would want to give away a copy of, even to a surely benign enthusiast.

Michaeldim
Jan 29, 2011

:byodood:


Aunt Beth posted:

Ah. Yeah that's really hard to come by. One of my customers works with a very highly modified version and it's nothing they could or would want to give away a copy of, even to a surely benign enthusiast.

Understandable. I know a lot of companies customize the software at the source with all sorts of secrets. I'm still holding out hope that there is a clean copy out there.

Michaeldim fucked around with this message at 05:46 on Feb 11, 2016

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Laslow
Jul 18, 2007


Good luck. When Tricon moved to Windows 2000 from OS/2, we actually ran the old OS/2 programs on the office computer on a subsystem called Merlin within Win2k. I was interested in finding out if they actually ported the OS/2 Warp API to Windows, since virtualization wasn't really a thing back then.

Of course the internet has no record of such software ever existing. :tinfoil:

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