By Kovie Biakolo
Source: Smithsonian Magazine

On the morning of June 26, 1974, an unremarkable pack of chewing gum in Ohio made history.

At the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, as in major grocers throughout the country, cashiers would ring up items by manually entering the price of each on a cash register before computing a final tally. That day, though, saw something new: An employee named Sharon Buchanan rang up a packet of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum without ever having to key in a price. Instead, she used a remarkable new gadget to scan a symbol on the packaging that would indicate the cost. The bulky rectangular device—visible to the customer only as a silver plate with four light sensors—was one of the store’s ten brand-new Spectra-Physics Model A’s. The unglamorous name suited its unexciting veneer, but for customers and cashiers alike, it would change shopping forever, making checkout a piece of cake.

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