Barcodes - History of Barcodes


The first barcode system was invented by Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1949. Joseph and Bernard were graduate students at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The owner of a local chain of grocery stores approached the school to find a way to automatically read product information at the checkout counter. Barcodes are now used to identify nearly every product that is sold. According to the agency that issues bar code numbers (Global Standards One), there are now about 5 billion bar codes scanned every day around the world.

  • Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver’s barcode system was inspired by Morse code. Joseph extended the dots and dashes downwards, making thin and thick lines. They also created a bull’s eye pattern that could be scanned from any direction. They filed a patent for their barcode system in 1949, and it was issued three years later.
  • Wider use of barcodes began in 1966. The need to standardize the systems led to the creation of the U.P.C., or Uniform Product Code. These were invented by George J. Laurer from IBM in 1973.
  • In June of 1974, the first U.P.C. scanner was installed at a Marsh's supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The first product to have a U.P.C. code included was a packet of Wrigley's Gum.
  • The United States Postal Service adopted the POSTNET barcode in 1982, which made it possible to scan zip codes to automate mail sorting.
  • Barcodes are now used on almost everything we purchase or track from virtually any industry. There are few parts of our daily lives that are not touched by a barcode.

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