Dividends: Courtesy, Machine Style

Standing in line at the supermarket is not usually a barrel of laughs. But at Albertson's Food Center in San Jose, Calif., the checkout counter is turning out to be the most entertaining part of the visit. Albertson's, along with five other U.S. supermarkets, has installed a tiny black box manufactured by National Semiconductor Corp. of Santa Clara, Calif. The device electronically simulates a woman's voice calling out the price of each item, the total bill and the amount of change owed shoppers. The machine, dubbed POSitalker, is usually connected to a so-called laser scanner, which is a computerized checkout...

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