As Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, OH, opened for business, checker Sharon Buchanan received her first customer, Clyde Dawson. Reaching into his grocery cart, the first item he picked up was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. As Sharon received the item, she did something that had never been done before — she “scanned” it across a laser light. Immediately, the price of 67 cents popped up on her register … and product scanning was born!
Today, that pack of Wrigley’s gum is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.
Additional Reading on the History of the Bar Code
“A Short History of Bar Code”
“Barcodes Sweep the World”
Cashless Dreams are Born
Through the 1970s and into the early ’80s, sugarplum images of “going cashless” was in everybody’s head. Mass media reports and industry surveys at the time projected that a real cashless society loomed very near, very soon.
• HOUSTON CHRONICLE, August 31, 1971 – “Few Believe it, But Society May Become Checkless.”
• ASSOCIATED PRESS, January 1, 1975 – “Cashless Society Said Possible in Decade: All Transactions Would Be Electronic”
• CHANGING TIMES magazine, October 1975 – “Get Ready for Cashless, Checkless Living”
Interviews of industry leaders, bankers and futurists of every brand painted a remarkable picture of a cashless society that was being heralded as the next technological evolution. It was in this pool of expectation that at least two authors produced books on the subject:
• Robert Hendrickson – THE FUTURE OF MONEY (1970); THE CASHLESS SOCIETY (1972)
• Wally Wood – CASHLESS SOCIETY: A WORLD WITHOUT MONEY (1976)
Followed by a host of others, listed on our Resources page.
Hendrickson wrote: “All that is necessary is to wait out a short term in the cycle of human history and a cashless society will inevitably befall us … because this is a development that is automatic and inevitable.”
Although talk about a “cashless society” has waned for the most part since the 1980s, there are those rare occasions when the subject resurfaces.
- Silicon.com: “French Town Tests Cashless Society” (Apr. 20, 2006)
- Canada.com: “Will Australia be the First Cashless Society? (June 23, 2006)
- NBC10.com: “We’re becoming a cashless society. Do you have cash in your pocket or would you be lost without your debit card?” (Jan. 11, 2007)
- The Independent (London): “Cashless Society by 2012, Visa Chief Says — Paying for goods with notes and coins could be consigned to history within five years, according to the chief executive of Visa Europe.“
As Hendrickson hinted, it’s no longer a matter of “if” — but”when”!
Wood’s research into an evolving cashless society finally culminated into authoring his first book on the subject entitled: CASHLESS SOCIETY: A WORLD WITHOUT MONEY. Published by SRC Publishing in Oklahoma City, this small 40-page book predicted a totally digitized economic system in the 21st century that would be monitored and managed by a centralized computer network. Wood called the network “CenCom,” for Central Computer. CenCom would oversee all financial transactions at every level, from electronic payroll deposits to electronic payments of bills to purchases of gasoline at the gas pump to soda machine purchases. Retail stores would be accessible only through the use of a private digital code at the store’s locked doors. All purchases would either be approved or disapproved by CenCom based on one’s “daily allocated budget” (deposited earnings [divided by] pay period [7days; 14 days …].
At the time the original manuscript was written, “mag” stripes on plastic cards had not been established, there were no debit cards, and the Universal Product Code (UPC) affixed to retail items was still experimental. It would be nearly ten years later — 1983 — that Newsweek magazine, in its January 3 edition, would be among the earliest to present the concept of an Information Superhighway to the public … eventually to be known as The Internet.
In considering a number of requests that a sequel to his book be written, Wood realized that the term cashless society had, in his words, “fallen on hard times” since the ’70s and early ’80s. The term had dropped out of the public media almost entirely. He wondered if there couldn’t be another term, phrase or word that would best describe what a “cashless society” would be about. Practically speaking, a cashless society could be nothing else but an economic system gone electronic. Digital. A digital economy … totally digitized! Then it hit him — diginomics! Digital economics!
In December 1998, Wood published his first online and hard copy article on the “new word” entitled, “DIGINOMICS: Reviewing the New Globalized Digital Economy.” That original article is presented here: