Point of Sale Basics

As a leading point-of-sale systems distributor, ScanSource is committed to providing you with comprehensive education and training on POS technology. Learn more about the technology by choosing from the training tools below:

Point-of-Sale Basics and General Information:

The POS products we supply include personal computer-based terminals, receipt printers, cash drawers, magnetic stripe readers, keyboards and related peripherals. Barcoding products distributed by ScanSource include bar code scanners and printers, portable data collection terminals, wireless networks and other related equipment.

What is a PC Cash Drawer?

A PC cash drawer is a point-of-sale system designed around a standard personal computer. Customers can add various peripherals to the system to meet their own particular needs. Below, we will detail each peripheral device, how it is used, how it is connected and its key features and options.

Receipt Printer


Every point-of-sale system should have a receipt printer. Each receipt printer comes with one or two cash drawer ports for direct attachment. This allows two devices - printer and cash drawer - to share a single port on the PC, which is beneficial because there are generally more peripheral devices than available ports on a PC. Several options are available for most receipt printers, including journal take-ups, cutter mechanisms, slip validation and MICR units.

Cash Drawer


The cash drawer is another necessary component in any point-of-sale system. Most cash drawers are printer-driven. Each receipt printer manufacturer has a unique cash drawer interface, making each cash drawer printer-specific. Cash drawers may also be attached independently via serial or parallel port.

Magnetic Stripe Reader (MSR)


Magnetic stripe readers are convenient for retailers who want to accept credit or debit cards. They're usually attached as a keyboard wedge (see "host connection" for more information on wedges) or directly to a serial port, and are most often configured to read tracks one and two or track two only. Proper software and a modem are needed to fill out the solution.

Check Reader


Using a technology called magnetic ink character recognition (MICR), check readers are capable of reading special characters printed on the bottom of a personal check. These characters are printed using magnetic ink to prevent check fraud. The check reader uses the same connectivity as a magnetic stripe reader and also requires software and a modem.



Keyboards have various configurations for the point-of-sale environment. Some are standard 101-key keyboards, with integrated magnetic stripe readers, barcode scanners, decoders and programmable keys. Other POS keyboards are specifically designed for the environment, with fewer keys and a smaller footprint. A flat panel membrane keyboard is a popular type that resists spills and is easily reprogrammed.



Scales are necessary for retailers who sell a product by weight. The scale must be certified by the state Board of Weights and Measures and must be NTEP-certified by the manufacturer. Scales are usually attached to a serial port.



In most cases, a standard 14-inch monitor is too large for a point-of-sale application, and a smaller, nine- or ten-inch monitor often works better. In many hospitality environments, such as restaurants, touch screen technology has become very popular, allowing for easy operator training and requiring no keyboard.



Barcode scanning provides for speed and accuracy at the checkout counter. Common scanners include CCDs, hand-held laser scanners, and omni-directional scanners (see "How do you read a barcode?" for more information on scanners). Scanners are usually connected via keyboard wedges or directly to a serial port.

Customer Display


Also known as a pole display, this device displays item and price information, as well as product advertising. It contains either a fluorescent or LCD display and attaches either to the serial or parallel port.

Applications Software

The applications software is the most important part of any point-of-sale solution. The software is always chosen first and determines the hardware selection.

Remember the following tips:

  • Refer to your software manual before choosing any point-of-sale hardware
  • ScanSource can help you configure your PC cash drawer system for a successful implementation.