Buggy Loop in Checkout Line - sunday 2005-05-15 1933 last modified 2005-05-15 1933
Categories: Nerdy
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Not something I normally write about, but maybe it will save somebody a headache.

Star Market has been offering self-checkout lines in locations near me somewhere in the past year or so. One swipes bar codes and bags groceries while following directions on a touchscreen. While convenient and generally quick, occasionally a poorly written piece of code will produce a condition where the controller will tell you you've added an extra item to the bag; when you remove it, it will tell you you've removed an already bagged item and then tell you to re-bag it. The cycle cannot be broken except by an employee with the proper credentials.

I thought this happed at random until I finally figured it out: if you've scanned a savings card and the item you just scanned has savings on it, you have to let the controller finish telling you how much you've saved before you bag the item.

I don't understand why the programmer thought it necessary to wait until the speech code finished playing before moving to the 'please bag' code; one might fairly assume that the speech portion is basically fluff since blind customers can't use the touchscreen system and give it far lower priority. First set the 'please bag' flag, then play the voice, then check if the item's been bagged.

I wonder what hardware and language these things use.


it's windows

possibly 2k... i've seen the desktop before when the thing was booted but hadn't loaded the program yet.. i've heard people have seen bluescreens too.

i just find it incomprehensible how slow the UI is... i use that thing at least a couple times a week for lunch.

Danny Park on May 15, 2005 08:39 PM

Its some kind of...

It's some kind of embedded Windows. I had a printout from one that crashed which told the version number and stuff, but I either washed it in my jeans or lost it somewhere.

fugu on May 16, 2005 08:32 PM

The animated GIF...

The animated GIF playing in the content corner on NCR's self checkout hardware product page is unmistakably similar to the ones in the MIT Star. The product brochure lists NT and XPe as integration points, but I'm betting 'ours' are stock software with minimal customization.

Ryan Lee on June 30, 2005 08:27 PM

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