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Sunday, 4 March 2012


Barcodes were conceived as a kind of visual Morse code by a Philadelphia student, Bernard Silver, and his friend Norman Woodhead, in 1949, but retailers were slow to take up the technology, which could be unreliable.

The first use of barcodes was to label railroad cars, but they were not commercially successful.

Barcodes only became popular in the early 1970s, when Woodhead, then employed by IBM, devised the Universal Product Code. The UPC system was adopted by the food industry in North America.

Norman Joseph Woodland at IBM

In 1973 IBM offered its UPC bar code proposal to the grocery industry for free. The industry accepted a very close standard to their proposal. However, IBM also made the first technology capable of reading the bar codes, and made tons of money selling the equipment to grocery stores.

The first product to have a UPC barcode on its packaging was Wrigley's chewing gum in 1974.

The first place where a barcode was scanned was when a packet of Wrigley’s chewing gum was sold in June 1974 in Troy, Ohio.

All countries have their individual authority for numbering, and each uses the first two or three digits for the full sequence of 13 figures. In USA and Canada the prefix is 00 to 09 and in Britain it is 50.

Barcode readers actually scan the white parts and not the black parts.

It costs about a tenth of a penny to slap on a barcode.

The bar codes of all newspapers and magazines anywhere in the world begin with the digits 977.

Source The Independent November 3, 2007

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