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History of Barcodes


History of Barcodes
September 14, 2017


Invention is not Innovation- history of barcode lays the significance of the statement. The necessity of the inventory tracking technology especially in grocery retail led to the invention of barcodes! But it’s the innovation which made a simple idea of data collection techniques forged a way for a billion-dollar industry.

The idea of Barcode can be traced in 1948, when Norman Joe Woodland and Bernie silver from Drexel Institute in Philadelphia created the first prototype for a linear barcode using combination of Morse code- a series of dots and dashes (used in telegraph and radio communications) represented by extending the lines to write first linear barcode and Movie sound track Technologies- to read the barcode.

To get the code readable from both directions, Woodland converted the lines into circles- which was then known as- “Bull-eye” code, for which they were granted the patent in 1952. But if the ink smeared at all during printing, the code became useless. Also, the main problem wasn’t resolved – to capture the data quickly and accurately at the check-out counter of grocery retail store.

It was then, the UPC (Universal Product Code) was introduced in 1973. The code was split into halves of six digits each, wherein each digit described the details of the product and designed in a way that it can be scanned in either direction. It was developed by IBM engineer George Laurer providing input on the project of the original inventor: Joe Woodland, who had taken a job at IBM back in 1951 and stayed there until his retirement. For which Woodland was presented with the 1992 National Medal of Technology for his work by President George Bush. In 1974, a 10-pack of Wrigley's chewing gum was the first product logged in a grocery store by a barcoding system using the modern UPC code.

Throughout the 1970's barcode scanning systems became more affordable and practical with the continued price reduction and miniaturization of microprocessors and lasers. Advances in scan technology and from linear barcode like UPC and UAN to Matrix barcodes like QR codes now make it possible to use barcodes to pull up detailed product information in real time. Universal barcodes enable retailers to check inventory in multiple locations using an iPad POS system.

Nowadays, with the help of retail software, we can also create our barcodes. Through this, Ginesys retail ERP helps in making inventory management efficient for large retail chains.