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Brief history of the barcode

Brief history of the barcode

As more people needed to go grocery shopping, crowds and lines increased, and shopkeepers needed a way to make the whole process more efficient. Once the codes were in use, the way items were bought and restocked would no longer be the same.

Ahead of its time

As the post-World-War-II population of the United States swelled, crowds at grocery stores naturally became bigger. The increased sales and restocking sessions created virtual logjams as people had to wait a long time to get through the store and checkout. At that point, checking out was all manual; there were no scanners.

One market’s manager in Pennsylvania reached the point where he contacted the dean of a nearby university (Drexel) to ask the school to come up with something that would alleviate wait times and help with inventory control. A grad student and alumnus decided to take on the job. It took a couple of dedicated years, but in the winter of 1949, that alumnus, Joe Woodland, drew some lines in the sand on a beach and realized he had found the key.

Woodland knew Morse Code and played around with changing the dots and dashes to thick and thin lines. The idea was to have a machine that would read the pattern of lines and send the information to a register. Woodland and his colleague built a huge working model, but it was nowhere near complete – and it was too big to be practical for markets – because laser scanners weren’t yet a reality. The barcode was literally ahead of its time.

Catching up

However, the early 1960’s brought in a wave of technological changes – including the invention of laser beams. While the man who created the laser thought along the lines of using the invention for scientific purposes, researchers at RCA had different plans. In the mid-1960’s, these researchers were working on commercial applications for automated technology, and one of the projects they had focused on automated supermarket checkouts after the Kroger grocery company asked them to try to create a grocery scanner. This led to a few false starts, but once the researchers found the patent for the barcode, they quickly got to work.

Initially, the barcode was round. The logic behind this was that a product with a round code didn’t need to be turned around so the scanner could see the correct code. By 1972, RCA was installing automated checkout systems in stores.

At the same time, another group was working on developing a universal code that all stores could use, called a Universal Product Code. This group met up with RCA’s group and realized that the UPC and the barcode were made for each other. Eventually, the two groups redesigned the code to look like the boxy barred code that you see today. In 1974, the first item — a pack of chewing gum — was rung up using this UPC barcode.

The barcode has become truly universal crossing multiple industries. Shipping companies, warehouses and distribution centers, manufacturing, medical, archives and evening by marketing to provide data on how to buy.

ASG Services is one company which has specialized in producing barcoded products for location identification in distribution centers and manufacturing. Their contribution to the barcodes history is in developing cost effective durable solutions, with designs and configurations that are easy to understand and easily used by all users.

Using codes to track product remains the most efficient method and with the development and adoption of 2-D matrix symbology, also known as QR codes and data matrix. These store much more information and can be used for more detailed requirements. Microsoft’s development of the color matrix barcode takes the information storage even further for niche requirements.

Companies such as ASG Services can create all types of barcodes with label designs to suit the operational purpose, helping you track, locate and ship your products.

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