DOS Still Lives – In Retail

Our family recently joined an organic food coop.  As a coop, were are obligated to volunteer time for the common good … there are no employees, only volunteers.  It is not that the prices are “cheaper”, but the food is fresher and the selection is what the collective decides it wants to buy.

As the computer nerd in the crowd, and as one of the newest members, I was given my choice of jobs: (1) bagger, (2) labeller, (3) food sorter, (4) sweeper, (5) early morning greeter.  Such a set of wonderful jobs.

CoPOS DOSBut then I spied in the back room an ancient DOS computer.  Ever curious about technology, I asked the question:  what is that for.  I was told it was a sophisticated Point of Sale (“POS”) system that had been purchased/donated to the coop.

As I learned, the plan was to revolutionize the coop with bar code reading, auto-deducting inventory, and auto-billing.  As I soon realized, the system was currently used for generating pricing labels on bulk food items.  And so, I chose as my task to master the POS system for the coop and serve as a trainer.

The catch, was that the system ran on DOS.  And, there was no written manual.  At first, I thought … no manual, no GUI, … hopeless.  No Windows7, no Snagit, no MS Word, … how could I even create a manual to help.

That was before I sat down to take a tour of the program.  In the absence of a manual, I would treat this task like a game of Zork: The Great Underground Empire.  As in Zork, you start with a blank cursor, and start typing commands.  In this case all the commands were numbers between 1 and 20, along with the PageUp, PageDown and a few navigation keys.   Can you believe, NO MOUSE.  I felt almost crippled.

And yet, as I worked through the program options over the next half hour, I soon had mapped out most of the program in my head.  I was struck by the EFFICIENCY of this program.  In a few key strokes (yes … you would want to memorize them), you could do just about anything with your inventory, from export/import, labeling, reports, and even mass changes.  The DOS itself was liberating.  In viewing this program, I wonder whether with all these Windows, we have really gained productivity.

So DOS is still alive in Retail, and it STILL WORKS.

For those who like to comment, I encourage you to REGISTER as a user and tell me what DOS programs you have liked and still use.

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