United States Patent 3637989

This relates to an apparatus for indicating the price and amount on hand of any specific item of a number of items in a warehouse or store. Every item has a code marking with identical items carrying identical code markings. A memory unit is provided in the apparatus, with space for every coded marking in stock. Associated with the space of each such marking in the memory is a price and an inventory counter, so that, as each coded marking on a particular item is registered, the associated price is displayed, as well as, the new inventory count of the item.

Howard, Joseph D. (Piedmont, CA)
Brobeck, William M. (Orinda, CA)
Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
101/93, 235/91L, 235/385
International Classes:
G06Q10/08; G07G1/10; (IPC1-7): G06K7/14; G06K3/00; G06M1/22
Field of Search:
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Primary Examiner:
Wilbur, Maynard R.
Assistant Examiner:
Kilgore, Robert M.
Parent Case Data:

The present application is a continuation-in-part of our copending U.S. Pat. application, Ser. No. 749,815, filed Aug. 2, 1968, for "Method and Apparatus for Handling Materials" and of our prior U.S. Pat. application Ser. No. 820,670, filed June 16, 1959, now abandoned.
We claim

1. Automatic pricing and inventory control apparatus for instantaneously indicating the price and inventory quantity of each of a large plurality of different items wherein each identical item only bears a like code marking and different items bear different code markings comprising

It is herein provided that each different kind, type and size of a large variety of item and items, for example, containers and packages, shall be separately marked with a distinctive code marking. Identical items which are separately distinguished by content and size and further separated by manufacturer, packer, distributor and the like, will bear the same code marking. Manufacturers, packers and distributors are assigned different codes which are further separated by kind, type and size of item in order that each kind, type and size of item of a particular manufacturer, packer, and distributor has a code exclusively its own. These code markings of all items to be handled in a particular operation are stored and recorded in a memory bank unit to which are added and recorded the corresponding price information and the incoming and disbursed quantities of the items of such code markings. The price is arbitrarily established at the memory bank site by the person recording the price in the memory unit, whereas the input and output of inventory quantities and information is based on the quantity involved in the transaction concerning the particular code marking in the memory unit. Thereafter as individual items are removed from stock, only the code marking thereof is registered on the keyboard of the memory unit, for example by the cashier, which action then instantly activates the memory unit so that the price which corresponds to the code marking is simultaneously selected and recorded and the inventory record of the code marking is automatically adjusted to give continuous inventory information of all items sold and remaining in stock.


Modern economy requires a continual flow of consumer goods from the manufacturer, packager and distributor through various intermediate points which collect, store and distribute a large plurality of items which the general public is able to obtain by purchase as necessities and luxuries of present day civilization. In this flow of goods there is a tremendous amount of manual handling and rehandling of the goods. Particularly at ultimate distribution points, i.e., retain stores, conventional procedures require a great amount of manual manipulation or handling of each individual item. For example, in a retail store each item must be individually handled for pricing, stocking, and consummating the sale. The sale itself at present requires a salesperson or checker to obtain the price of the goods by referring to some type of listing of price, such as those hand marked on containers, in order that the various additional steps may be taken to register the prices upon a cash register or point-of-sales recorder. The present invention removes all necessity for manually recording prices on the items, for example on packages and other containers, at wholesale and retail stores.

Wholesale and retail stores also periodically review inventories, which activity generally requires an on-site count of the items inventoried. Such work generally is time consuming, expensive and done manually. This type of inventory information is obtained only periodically by a store manager. At other times he usually depends on experience, spot checks and estimates for the information he needs to maintain a sufficient quantity of each item on hand to meet expected sales. In comparison, the present invention provides for automatic, continuous and instantly available electronically maintained inventory of any number of different kinds, types and sizes of all items in the store and furnished by all manufacturers, packers and distributors to the store. Any information related to manufacturers, packers and distributors and to kinds, types and sizes, prices and inventory including combinations thereof, are available through this invention.

It is recognized that various advancements in the field of automated or semiautomated merchandising have been made. It has, for example, been though that modern computer technology may be applicable to the problem. This alone, however, does not provide a solution to the problems nor does it provide for attaining the desirable results outlined above. More specifically there have been advanced certain systems such as that disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 2,899,132, to Orthuber relating to checking systems and setting forth one approach to an improvement in the field of retail merchandising. Another reference of interest in this field is U.S. Pat. No. 1,801,981 to Rogal et al. which sets forth a rather complicated system directed at least in part only to attainment of objects similar to those of the present invention. Numerous other issued patents are of general interest. However, it is again noted that these systems at most provide only a partial solution to the needs of wholesaling, retailing and merchandising. Also, these processes do not cover all dimensions of the problems related to prices, sales, and the invoicing information which should be recorded as each item is sold or stocked. Thus in effect those systems have failed to provide a sufficiently simple system to achieve a widespread acceptance, particularly at the retail level.


The present invention provides an improved system for price registration, price interpretation, and inventory of items sold and unsold. This system is applicable to and may be employed substantially at all levels involving the flow of goods including warehouses and wholesale and retail outlets and the like. The invention, however, is sufficiently simple in application that its use is particularly commended to retail outlets, for example, grocery and drugstores wherein a substantial variety of items are handled that relatively untrained personnel may use the invention most effectively and accurately.

An innovation of the present invention is that handling of items at all levels of stocking, pricing, selling and keeping inventories, including the acquisition and dissimination of all records and the combination of statistics thereof, is dependent on the items being marked with an alphabetic or other code or coded indication that is readily visible on the item, for example, on the container, label or whatever else is used to package the item. All identical items by kinds, contents or sizes and further separated by manufacturers, packers or distributors are to have the same code markings. Conversely, dissimilar kinds of items including dissimilar contents and sizes of any particular goods of the same manufacturer, packer or distributor are to have dissimilar code markings. Code markings are obtained or originated in several ways.

For wholesale and retail outlets which generally handle a great plurality of national brand items, as characteristic of grocery and drug stores, code markings are obtained by the manufacturer, packer or distributor from a central code office specifically established to form, issue, control and supervise the use of the code markings which may be used extensively by one or more outlets in local, regional, national and even international markets. For other wholesaling and retailing outlets, such as department stores where items may be relatively similar in kind but actually dissimilar because of such differences as color, minute design characteristics, and even in sales appeal, it may be best for these wholesale and retail outlets to originate and control codes in whole or in part within their own organization. Even grocery and drug stores may originate and control within their organization a certain number of codes to cover those items of limited production or confined to very local or regional market, or even to cover those items which have not been coded by the manufacturer, packer or distributor.

At locations where items arrive for stocking, pricing, sales and the maintenance of inventory records such as wholesale and retail outlets, a memory bank or the like is maintained for receiving, retaining, compiling and output of information related to the codes and their corresponding prices and quantities. Upon arrival of coded items at these storage and marketing outlets, prices are set by the people selling the items by inserting these prices in the memory bank or the like so that the selected price corresponds to the particular code of the item received. Also added to the memory bank or the like to correspond to the particular code involved is the quantity received of the coded item. With both the price and quantity recorded in the memory bank to correspond to the particular code involved, only the code need be registered thereafter on the keyboard or the like of the memory bank unit, for example by cashiers at grocery and drug stores, to activate the equipment for selecting and recording the price involving the code and sale, as the case may be, and for the simultaneous adjustment of the inventory record involving the transaction of the specific coded item in the memory bank.

Recorded inventory totals corresponding to registered codes are reduced by the number of units which are sold, for example, and the new total is applied to the records of the same memory bank unit as the new inventory. In the instance of a single item sale, the inventory numbers thereof minus one becomes the new inventory on record corresponding to the same code marking for an item that has just been distributed or sold. Readout means are provided for indicating the inventory of any and all items having codes thereof stored in the memory unit or bank. An entirely electronic system is provided without moving parts and a highly advantageous system of handling information storage and retrieval is incorporated in the present invention.

The invention operates to register and record code markings of each item distributed or sold by a scanning means operating at high speed to consecutively scan all codes stored in the memory bank unit or the like and to produce an output signal upon occurrence of an identity of a registered and stored code. This output signal is employed to retrieve from the memory bank unit or the like the stored price corresponding to the code identity and to retrieve from the memory bank unit or the like the inventory number or record corresponding to such code.

In the instance of retail sales, the code marking and the corresponding retail price information registered in the sale may be recorded, registered or the like as a portion of the sales slip issued to customers.


The present invention is illustrated as to a single preferred embodiment thereof in the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of the invention in general;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the system of the present invention and;

FIG. 3 is a circuit diagram of the circuit of the present invention illustrated in block form in FIG. 2.


Referring first to FIG. 1 of the drawings there will be seen to be schematically illustrated a flow of items 11 which may, for example, comprise retail sales items passing a checkout register. While these items are schematically shown as boxes, bags, bottles and the like they of course, may comprise articles of clothing, equipment parts or any other type of items in the flow of commerce. Furthermore it is not necessary that the invention be employed at a retail sales outlet for the control apparatus hereof is equally applicable to wholesale operations or any type of distribution. Again referring to FIG. 1 it will be seen that the items 11 each contain a code marking 13 at a conspicuous point thereon. Such code marking is applied to each individual item, preferably at a point of origin thereof or at least at some point prior to the handling contemplated by the present invention. For example, a canner of fruits and vegetables may apply the code marking as by having same printed upon can labels and affixing the labels to the cans as they leave the cannery or packing house. Garments may be code marked by the manufacturer or possibly by the brand distributor. Clearly for certain types of merchandise or items to be operated upon by the system of the present invention it is necessary for the code marking to be apparent only upon examination of the item and thus for women's dresses for example, the code may be applied to the label generally located on the inner surface of the garment.

Further to the code marking of the present invention it is particularly noted that each identical item is marked with an identical code and the different codes are applied to items of differing kinds, type, size, etc. The actual choise of particular code identities admits of substantial variations however, it is noted that a practical code may be made up of letters and numbers and that in certain fields it may be advantageous to have related codes for the same kind and/or type of merchandise. Thus for example in a ladies apparel shop the dresses from one manufacturer may have certain code similarities for purposes of maximizing utilization of instantaneous inventory, as further noted below.

The system hereof as generally illustrated in FIG. 1 includes an input register 16 which is adapted to receive either manually or automatically the coded indicia of each item 11 in the flow of items as illustrated. It is believed sufficient herein to merely indicate the possibility of automated registration of codes and the following description is referenced to manual registration thereof. In practice, the system is employed by manually keying into the input register the separate code markings of items sold, distributed or otherwise operated upon so that they are inventoried and priced in accordance with the present invention. Thus the input register 16 incorporates means for receiving coded indicia as it appears upon individual items in the flow of same. Such registration may be accomplished by the provision of a code input keyboard and it will be appreciated that an operator of such register need only operate such a keyboard to enter information visually available to him from the items. No other manual operation is involved by the checker, salesperson or the like who may be responsible for operating the present invention.

The system of this invention includes a memory unit bank which may be comprised as a bank including a large plurality of cores and which is adapted to have stored therein each of the separate codes that are to be employed by the particular system. Thus for example in a store stocking 10,000 items having some difference of either kind, type, manufacturer or the like, there would be stored in the memory 17 these 10,000 different codes. Initial loading of the memory as illustrated schematically in FIG. 1 is to be accomplished by a control 18. In addition to the separate codes stored in the memory 17 there is also stored therein information relative to each stored code. This information may comprise price information and/or inventory information. The control unit 18 is considered in this generalized schematic illustration to incorporate means for applying such information to the memory in separate correspondence with each appropriate code. Thus, for example, a single code representing a certain ladies dress, size 9, manufactured by the XYZ Company would be related in the memory core to the 14.95 price thereof and a store inventory of, say, seven such dresses.

Further in accordance with the present invention the memory 17 is rapidly and continuously scanned so that upon application of an input code from the register 16 thereto there is immediately determined a coincidence or identity between such input code and a stored code to thus produce an output to the register 19 of the corresponding price information to the stored code identical to the input code and also an output of the corresponding inventory number to an inventory output 20. It is not attempted at this point to identify the mechanisms of comparison and output however, it is particularly noted that the system hereof does substantially instantaneously locate in the memory the identical code received from the input register 16 and deliver to the output register and inventory output the corresponding price information and inventory information correlated with or corresponding to such code stored in the memory.

It will thus be seen that for an operator that may for example be handling sales items at a retail outlet it is only necessary to register a code marking appearing upon the items and the control apparatus hereof then accomplishes all further operation necessary to completion of the sale. In this respect it is noted that the output register 19 may incorporate a printer for recording prices and a totalizer to sum such prices as the total sales price of a number of items sold. The inventory output on the other hand provides a continuous count of the number of items of successive code markings remaining in inventory. It is to be appreciated that the invention provides for subtraction of one from the inventory number each time that the code marking corresponding thereto in the memory is applied to the memory by the input register. Further provision is made in the control unit 18 for adding to the inventory number at such times as additional items of individual code markings are added to stock. Furthermore, the control unit 18 is capable of immediately changing the price information corresponding to any particular code in the memory. There is thus provided a maximized flexibility and control by the present invention over sales or distribution procedures. All of this is accomplished without requiring any high degree of ability by an operator employing the input register. Aside from the improvement afforded by the present invention in the field of simplified sales procedures and preclusion of errors in sales prices, it is particularly noted that very substantial advantages lie in the control afforded the manager or owner not only in ability to substantially and instantaneously change prices but also to receive continuous accurate inventory information. This continuous inventory of each item stocked in a store, for example, is invaluable as information on which reordering may be based. Not only does a manager or the like know at all times the amount of each item in stock but also is provided with information as to the rate of sales thereof. This then allows such a manager to constantly revise desired minimum stocks of individual items and to statistically predict sales of each item. This provides the manager or the like with information and capabilities which are highly advantageous in the modern flow of commerce. Instantly available inventory is a goal long sought by those engaged in the sale and/or transfer of goods. If a particular item is moving rapidly then the availability of this information to one making decisions regarding restocking allows such person to reorder or restock the item more rapidly and/or in greater quantity. Alternatively, a relatively slow moving item need not be restocked even though the stock thereof decreases to a low level. Furthermore, it is possible for a manager or the like to employ continuous and instant inventory information to determine whether or not certain items should be removed from stock as by failure to reorder. This then provides the manager of a store, for example, with up-to-date and accurate information upon which he may make considered business judgments rather than guesses.

Considering the present invention further, reference is made to FIG. 2 showing a schematic block diagram of the system of this invention. Considering the system as set forth in FIG. 2 it is first noted that inasmuch as generalized units of FIG. 1 are further broken down in the figure alternative numerals are employed so as not to confuse the reader. Considering this block diagram it is noted that there is provided a memory bank 31 which is schematically illustrated to be divided into three portions, i.e., code 32, price 33 and inventory 34. This nomenclature is intended to identify the information stored in the separate portions of the bank. The bank is also provided with write means 36 by means of which information is inserted in the memory bank and with read means 37 by means of which information is retrieved from the memory bank. In accordance herewith, there is provided scanning means 38 which rapidly scans all information storage positions, as for example, at a rate of 60 times per second so as to make available all stored information substantially instantaneously.

Further in accordance herewith, there is provided an item code matrix 41 operated from a code register 42 and providing an output signal to the write unit 36 and also to a control portion 43 of the system. A code registered in the code register 42, as by an operator viewing a sales item, will produce a signal that is placed in usable form by the item code matrix as for example, binary form and the output thereof is applied to the write portion 36 of the memory bank so that as the bank is scanned a coincidence is produced if the registered code is identical to one already stored in the memory and otherwise the code registered is applied to and stored within the bank. Assuming that the registered code is already stored in the memory bank, there will be produced an output from the read portion 36 of the memory which is returned to the control portion 43 of the system. Each bit of price and inventory information corresponding to successive codes of the memory bank are read by the read unit 37, however, only upon the establishment of an identity between a registered code and a stored code does this read information proceed from the memory to other portions of the system. An identity between registered code and stored code produces an output from the code portion of the memory bank which is applied through the read unit through the control part 43 of the system. This then provides for passage of the other read outputs of the memory bank so that the corresponding price information from the identity of registered and stored codes is passed to a price code matrix 44 converting the binary form of stored information, for example, to decimal form for application to a price output unit 46. Additionally the inventory number corresponding to the stored code identical to the registered code is passed by the control portion 43 for application to an inventory output matrix 47 that in turn converts this into decimal information for application to an inventory output unit 48. The system also includes a buffer counter 48 which receives the inventory output information and applies the inventory minus one back to the write circuit 36 associated with the inventory portion 34 of the memory bank. In this manner, the inventory number or quantity corresponding to each item code is reduced by one every time the item code is entered on the code register and coincides with a recorded item code in the memory bank.

The system as generally illustrated in FIG. 2 further includes inventory input 51 and a price input 52 with each of these units having a corresponding matrix 53 and 54 respectively converting the input information into binary form and applying same to write circuits 36 associated with the corresponding portions of the memory bank. A step counter 56 is illustrated as being connected between the control circuitry 43 and the write circuits of the memory bank for the purpose of energizing these circuits for the application of price and inventory information corresponding to a particular item code as entered upon the code register when such information is desired to be changed. It is to be appreciated that the generalized showing of FIG. 2 attempts only to present major portions of the system without entering into details of operation or connections. Insofar as an operator is concerned, the code register 42 comprises a keyboard by means of which item codes may be registered in the system and the price output and inventory output units 46 and 48 respectively may comprise one or more printers by means of which the price information and inventory information is recorded. The code register and price output may be mechanically interconnected, as illustrated by the dashed line in FIG. 2, for the purpose of printing a transaction slip containing both item codes and prices. Of course, the price output may also include a totalization or summation of all prices recorded for particular transaction at the command of a totalizer key provided on the code register keyboard, for example. The inventory output may, if desired, be physically located separately from the price output and of course, it is possible to provide any desired number of input and output units for FIG. 2. Time-sharing techniques may be employed in this connection and similarly remotely connected units may also be employed.

Considering now the specific embodiment of the system illustrated in FIG. 3 it is first noted that the magnetic core memory 36 of the present invention may be comprised of a plurality of "core planes" with each such plane containing a substantial number of cores. As an example there may be employed 49 core planes with each plane containing 8,192 cores in an array of 128 by 64. Individual cores of the memory are selected by simultaneously applying currents to the X and Y coordinates thereof. The read circuits 37 are operated from sense windings each of which threads all of the cores in one plane and converts information therein to logic "ones" and "zeros," inasmuch as the circuitry operates in the binary mode. With regard to the storage of information in the magnetic memory 31 there are provided "inhibit" windings each of which also threads all of the cores in one plane and are pulsed by the application of signals to the write circuits 36. In this particular magnetic core memory the reading of a core causes the erasing of information stored therein and the reading thereof is stored and applied back to the write circuits so as to replace the information read, unless it is changed. The foregoing is automatically accomplished by the read and write circuits of the magnetic core memory and inasmuch as the construction and operation of this type of memory is known in the art no further description is believed necessary herein. It is, however, noted that the scanner 38 operates to continuously and simultaneously scan all planes of the memory bank very rapidly, as for example, at the rate of 60 times per second. This may, for example, be accomplished by selecting the first row of the first column of an array and then the second row of the first column and so on through the last row of the last column.

Considering now the circuitry of FIG. 3 and the operation thereof, it is first assumed that codes, corresponding prices and initial inventories of each item have been recorded in the memory 31 and that the scanner 38 is operating. A read circuit 37a is associated with each of the item code core planes while a read circuit 37b is associated with each of the price core planes and a read circuit 37c is associated with each of the inventory core planes. Signals appear simultaneously from each of the memory core planes at the read circuits thereof and with regard to item codes the output of each read circuit 37a is applied to three AND gates and although only one such group of gates 61, 62 and 63 are illustrated it is to be appreciated that these are repeated for each core plane. In the illustration, the price read circuit 37b is illustrative of each price core plane and it will be seen that the output thereof is applied to two AND-gates 64 and 66 and similarly the read circuit 37c for each of the inventory core planes has the output applied to a pair of AND-gates 67 and 68. In the following description only a single read circuit and write circuit for each core plane is discussed however it is to be appreciated that the same circuitry and operation occurs for every core plane. Two of the AND-gates 61 and 62 connected to the item code read circuit 37a also receive inputs from an item code matrix 69 which converts the output of an item code input keyboard 71 into a binary code. This keyboard 71 may include a mechanical register operating in the manner of an adding machine to store the item codes set up by successive key depressions by an operator in accordance with item codes read from items passing a check point. The item code matrix 69 serves to change the output of the keyboard 71 into the binary system so that logical ones and logical zeros are produced from the item code matrix.

In the circumstance wherein the code matrix requires a logical one on the channel corresponding to core plane one, the AND-circuit 61 will produce an output when the read circuit 37a produces an output corresponding to a logical "one." Thus the AND-circuit 61 passes the signal through an OR-gate 72 connected to the outputs of the three AND-circuits 61, 62 and 63 for application of the signal to one of three further AND-circuits 73, 74 and 76. Under the circumstances wherein similar coincidences occur when all of the item codes read circuits 37c are compared with all of the remaining output channels of the item code matrix, all of the inputs of the AND-gates 73, 74 and 76 will be present to thus produce outputs therefrom which are applied to an AND-gate 77 to produce a pulse on a conductor or line 78. It will be appreciated that a pulse on this line 78 occurs only when the scanner has located an item code in the memory core which is identical to an item code inserted in the item code keyboard. This pulse on the line 78 is employed to enable the outputs of the price and inventory read circuits to pass into the system. The pulse on line 78 is supplied to a pair of AND-circuits 81 and 82 and, with the second of these passing a signal, a flip-flop 83 is operated to produce an output signal on a line 84 which is applied as one input to each of the pair of AND circuits connected to each price read circuit 37b and to each of the pair of AND circuits connected to each inventory read circuit 37c. The price read circuits 37b have the outputs connected through the illustrated pairs of AND-circuits 64 and 66 to a flip-flop circuit 86 which in turn applies the output to a price output matrix 87 that operates a price print unit 88. The price read circuits 37b read price information recorded on the price cores at the same time that the item code is being read on the item read circuit 37a and thus as long as no pulse appears on the line 78 the price read circuits will set and reset its flip-flop circuit 86 following the information read as a scanning proceeds. When a pulse does appear on the line 78 and providing a signal is applied on a line 89 as the other input to the AND-circuit 81 and a read-write switch 91 is in the read position, the flip-flop circuit 83 is "set" and thus removes the signal from the line 84 so that the gates 64 and 66 are closed to leave the flip-flop 86 in the position to which it was last set. Signals from this flip-flop 86 are applied to the price output matrix 87 as noted above and the set condition of flip-flop 83 applies the signal through a switch 92 to actuate the printer 88 connected to the price output matrix. The flip-flop 83 is reset by the price printer output so that the price read outputs are again applied to the flip-flop 86.

The inventory read circuits 37c operate in the same manner in that the gates 67 and 68 from each such read circuit 37c are also connected to the line 84 from the flip-flop 83 with the outputs being applied to a further flip-flop circuit 93 that in turn has the output connected to an inventory output matrix 94 that operates an inventory printer 96. This printer is actuated by a signal through the switch 92 from the flip-flop 83 and upon operation resets the flip-flop 83.

Further to the inventory output of the memory, it is noted that the flip-flops 93 connected to inventory read circuits 37c are also connected to a buffer counter 97 to control the number stored therein. During scanning the number changes continually until a signal appears on the line 78 indicating a coincidence of applied item code and stored item code. At this time the flip-flop circuits 93 to the buffer counter are disconnected from the read circuits so that the buffer counter holds the inventory number or quantity corresponding to the item code. At the end of each scanning cycle of the memory the scanner 38 produces a cycle pulse on a line 101 and this pulse is applied to the buffer counter 97 so as to reduce the count therein by one. As described below the cycle pulse causes one input to be applied to an AND-gate 102 and with the switch 103 in the read position, as shown, the next reading of the item code applies a pulse on the line 78 as a second input to this AND-gate 102 to thereby apply a write signal to the write circuits 36c of the inventory portion of the memory causing the new inventory number which is the original number reduced by one to be written in the inventory cores of the memory.

It is to be appreciated as noted above that each read operation erases the cores and the information read is then applied to the corresponding write circuit to replace the information in the cores. This is schematically illustrated by the arrows extending between read and write circuits of the separate portions of the memory.

An additional portion of the control circuitry of the present invention is illustrated at the left of FIG. 3 and it is noted that a third read-write switch 104 forms a part thereof. Assuming that each of the three switches, 91, 103 and 104 are in the read position as shown, operation then follows from closing of a start switch 106 to set a first flip-flop 107 and provide one input of a first AND-gate 108. As noted above, a cycle pulse is produced in the line 101 from the scanner 38 upon completion of each memory scan and this is connected to provide the other input of the AND-gate 108. The pulse passed by the gate 108 is applied to set a second flip-flop 109 that in turn produces an output pulse on the line 89 as required to open the gate 81 in coincidence with a pulse on the line 78 from the item code read circuits. At the completion of one scanning cycle the second cycle pulse on the line 101 applied to a second AND-gate 111 opens this gate inasmuch as the line 89 is connected to the other input thereof and the pulse passing this gate 111 is applied through the read portions of the switch 104 to set a third flip-flop 112 providing an input to a third AND-gate 113. A third cycle pulse from the scanner 38 provides a second input to the AND-gate 113 for resetting the flip-flop circuits 107, 109 and 112. It will be appreciated from a consideration of the operation of this portion of the control circuitry that the second flip-flop 109 should not be placed in the set position until after the cycle pulse has passed the second AND-gate 111. This short requisite delay may be provided by the time required for the flip-flop 109 to change from reset to set condition or, if this is insufficient, a time delay circuit may be inserted between the flip-flop 109 and gate circuit 111. The same condition exists with regard to the remaining flip-flops in the array shown at the left of FIG. 2.

With regard to the insertion of information in the magnetic core memory 31 it is noted that the item code matrix 69 is directly connected to the item code write circuits 36a through an erase switch 116, and that a price input matrix 117, operated by a price input keyboard 118, is directly connected to the price write circuits 36b. The item code write circuits and price write circuits are controlled by a command pulse applied thereto through a line 119 so that these circuits write the information set up on the item code and price keyboards when such command pulse is received. The inventory cores of the memory are connected to an inventory input matrix 121 through a read-write switch 122 with inventory input information being applied through an inventory input keyboard 123 connected to the inventory input matrix. A command pulse on the line 119 when the switch 122 is in write position, will cause the inventory write circuit 36c to record in the memory the information on the inventory keyboard. Further with regard to the operation of applying or recording information in the memory it is preferable that the cores are all loaded or recorded with continuous logical "ones" and thus any unused group of cores can be found by searching for an item code consisting of all "ones."

A new item code and corresponding price and inventory number may be inserted in the memory as follows. The code is applied to the keyboard 71, a price corresponding to the code is applied to the price keyboard 118 and the inventory quantity or number is applied to the inventory input keyboard 123. The switches 91, 103, 104 and 122 are placed in the "write" position and the start button 106 is pressed so that flip-flop 107 is set. This then applies a logic one signal to the first AND-gate 108 so that the next cycle pulse on the line 101 from the scanner 38 causes a signal to be passed by the gate 108 to set the flip-flop 109. During the next cycle of scanning the memory is searched for the item code set up on the item code input keyboard and inasmuch as such code is not already recorded in the memory no pulse will be produced on the line 78 prior to the occurrence of the next cycle pulse from the scanner. Additional flip-flop circuits 131, 132 and 133 are shown to provided at the left of the control circuitry in FIG. 3 and these are connected in the manner described in the description of the "write" operation below. The second cycle pulse on the line 101 from the scanner 38 is applied together with the set output of the first flip-flop 107 to pass a pulse through the gate 108 and set the second flip-flop circuit 109. The next cycle pulse is applied through an AND-gate 134 to set the flip-flop 131 because the flip-flop 132 is in reset position. This flip-flop 131 placed in the set position closes the AND-gate 62 in the item code read circuit output and the corresponding gates in the other item codes read channels while at the same time opening the AND-gate 63 of the three gates in the item code read circuit outputs. This then sets each of the readings circuits of the item code portions of the memory searching for logical "ones" without regard to the code that has been set up on the item keyboard. That this is the case will become apparent from consideration of the fact that a logical zero from read circuit 37a will not pass AND-gate 62 because of the lack of an input from the reset of flip-flop 131 while a logic "one" from such recircuit will pass gate 63 because the other input thereof is provided by the set output of flip-flop 131. As this scanner reaches the first item code of all logical "ones" a coincidence output will thus appear on the line 78. This coincidence signal on the line 78 is applied to the gate 81 together with the set output of the flip-flop 109 so as to pass a signal through the switch 91 to a step counter 136. An output line 137 from the scanner 38 provides step pulses to this counter 136 so that when each step of a complete scan has been counted from initiation of counting by the above-noted coincidence at gate 81 there will be produced an output signal from the step counter that is applied to the writing circuits of the memory to record the item code, the price and the inventory number.

In addition to the foregoing, the coincidence pulse on line 78 derived from the coincidence of logical "ones" in the item code portion of the memory applies a signal through the switch 103 to reset the flip-flop 131 and to set the flip-flop 132. In order to provide a check upon the information just applied to the memory the circuit provides for restoring the connections from the reading circuit so that they again search for the item code set up on the item code keyboard. The set output of the flip-flop 132 opens AND-gate 141 so that the next cycle pulse passes therethrough and through an OR-gate 142 to set the flip-flop 133. The set output of the flip-flop 133 is applied to an input of the AND-gate 82. Thus, when a coincidence occurs between the code on the item code input keyboard and the item code just recorded in the memory an output signal on the line 78 then passes through this gate 82 to cause the price and inventory number just recorded on the memory to be printed on the price printer 88 and inventory printer 96. The set output of the flip-flop 133 causes the next cycle pulse from the scanner to pass through a further AND-gate 143 to reset the flip-flops 107, 109, 132 and 133 and return the circuit to previous condition.

In the circumstances wherein the price or inventory number or quantity corresponding to a previously recorded item code is to be changed the foregoing sequence of operations is slightly changed. Thus, on the first scanning cycle after setting of the flip-flop 109 the item code entered on the item code keyboard 71 will be found in the memory to produce a pulse on the line 78. This will cause the step counter 136 to be actuated. After counting the total number of cycle pulses required to scan the memory the step counter produces a pulse on line 119 which causes the price and inventory information applied to the keyboards 118 and 123, respectively, to be recorded on the memory in the manner identified above. While the item code will also be recorded, it is the same as the one being read so that no change is made therein. As noted above, a signal or pulse on the line 78 is applied through the switch 103 to set the flip-flop 132 and thus remove one of the signals to AND-gate 134 so that no pulse will pass therethrough. Consequently the cycle pulse at the end of the cycle will not be able to pass the AND-gate 134. The cycle pulse will, however, pass AND-gate 141 because of the set output of flip-flop 132 also applied thereto and thus the pulse will pass through the OR-gate 142 to set the flip-flop 133. During the next cycle the item code will again be searched for and when found the new price and inventory will be printed out as described above. It is noted in this respect that switch 144 is connected between the line 101 carrying the cycle pulse on the scanner and the buffer counter 97 so that when the switch is opened, i.e., in the "write" position, there is no subtraction from the inventory during the foregoing operation.

Certain other points should be noted concerning operation of the circuit of FIG. 3 as, for example, the fact that the inventory quantity or number is reduced by one each time the item code is applied to the item code input keyboard during normal operation of reading. Should it be desired to provide for simplifying the entry of a plurality of the same item codes, a repeat key may be employed on the item keyboard. It is also possible to provide for reduction of the recorded inventory by any number by the provision of keys recording the quantity of separately coded items purchased, for example. A further operation that is required herein is the removal of item code from the memory under circumstances, for example, wherein an item carrying such code is no longer stocked. This is accomplished herein by placing the switch 116 in an erase position which is the opposite of that illustrated in the figure and at the same time placing all other circuit switches in the "write" position. It is then only necessary to press the start button 106 to replace the code entered on the item code input keyboard 71 with all "ones." It is not necessary to erase the price and inventory information corresponding to an erased item code because this information is changed to whatever accompanies the next item code to be written in the same memory position. It is also to be appreciated that all six of the control flip-flop circuits shown at the left of FIG. 3 are reset by closing a switch 147 in a reset line thereof to apply a signal from some power supply such as a battery illustrated in the figure. Operation of a further pushbutton switch 148 serves to apply a signal for resetting the flip-flop 83 at the start of operation of the system.

The overall operation of the system of the present invention has been set forth above in connection with a description of elements of a preferred embodiment of the system. Rather than setting forth a list of circuit elements and connections shown in FIG. 3, the identity connections and operations of the circuit components have been combined in the description. This manner of disclosure minimizes the length thereof and is presented as a more understandable description.

It will be apparent that variations are possible in the circuitry of FIG. 3 for example. It is also further believed to be clearly set forth herein that the control apparatus of this invention does provide for instantaneous and continuous inventory over a large number of separate items as may, for example, be stocked in a retail store. No limitation is intended as to application of the invention to retail outlets for certainly the invention is equally suited to a variety of other applications. The establishment of item codes and the marking of same upon items together with the storage of such codes together with corresponding prices and inventory quantities or numbers for each code and the substantially instantaneous retrieval of such corresponding price and inventory information provides a marked improvement enabling major advances in commerce.

Although the present invention has been described above in connection with a single preferred embodiment thereof, it is not intended to limit the invention to the precise details of illustration or terms of description. Reference is made to the appended claims for a precise definition of the invention.