The Atlantic
Published in

The Atlantic

How Software Ate the Point of Sale

Or, why paying for stuff is so complicated now

Tesco supermarket, 1969. Photo: Arthur Jones/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

I’m standing at the counter of a Vietnamese restaurant in Berkeley, ordering a pork bun. There was a time when I knew exactly what would happen next. I’d hand over my card, the cashier would swipe it, a little receipt would curl out of a machine, I’d sign it, and I’d crumple the bottom copy into a pocket. Easy.

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