IS4C stands for Integrated Systems for Co-ops. It started a number of years ago as an effort in integrating the database systems within the Wedge Community Co-op in Minneapolis. The Point of Sales system in use at the Wedge at the time seriously left something to be desired. To make up for the short-comings of the POS, the Wedge built, first, an alternative system to extract and clean up data from the POS for sales reporting. Slowly the system was integrated with other existing systems, such as membership and accounting. The Wedge then took a leap and built an alternative back end maintenance system, where integrated data was fed to the POS. What the Wedge could not do was to alter and customize in any way the POS itself. All these alternative systems, laboriously built around the POS, while giving us what we wanted were "work arounds" that required maintenance in themselves.

In the summer of 2001, a group of IT managers from various co-ops around the country descended on a retail trade show in Chicago. It did not pass unnoticed that many companies at the show were flirting with the idea of web-based applications. That was at the end of the dot com bubble. The bubble had burst, but the technology developed for the web during the heady days remained, and it was a valid technology. After the trade show, the Wedge tried its hands on developing an actual POS using web based technology. Development was rapid. Within a year it was fully implemented. The system was called WedgePOS at the Wedge. With a customized back end already built, and having our own POS, the electronic system at the Wedge become fully integrated - or rather, fully integratable, as full integration is always a work in progress.

It was then realized that the system would be of value to other co-ops. The advantages of having such a system were three fold: Firstly, The source code is available to the co-op using it, and therefore can be altered at will to implement the specific needs of the co-op. Secondly, The database managment system was "open architecture", meaning sales data could be extracted at will for customized reports of any kind, and thirdly, having complete access to the POS, code and data, would allow for data integration with other database systems, such as membership, payroll, accounting, as so on, within the organization. The decision was made to think of a way to give out what code we can so that other co-ops might share in the results of our work.

The question arose as to what we could give out. The original impetus for the project was not to make our own cash registers - cash registers could be bought at relatively low costs - but to make our point of sales an integral part of our data system. The WedgePOS could therefore be thought of as part of an integrated system that happened to be able to ring up grocery sales at designated workstations. In the end, the part that was given out was the code that ran on those workstations. IS4C was at first the working name for the effort in bringing the system beyond the Wedge. Later, as the project grew, IS4C became identified with the code which was then official released under the GNU GPL license.

An article on IS4C in the Co-op Grocer gives a more detailed description.