The Computer Society: Checking Out Tomorrow

Americans spend more than $153 billion a year on food and other purchases in supermarkets and grocery stores, and have an abiding suspicion that they are getting gypped at the check-out counter. Their mistrust should be considerably allayed, and the waiting lines shortened, by the ever growing number of computers that are taking over the tally.

At a computer-equipped check-out line, all the clerk has to do is pass each item over a Cyclopean eye linked to a cash register and a scale. In a twinkling, the eye "reads" the striped UPC (Universal Product Code) symbol, by which the computer system identifies...

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