Barcodes are fascinating and have such an interesting history that we thought we would put together a few of the more interesting facts for you to enjoy.
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- In the late 1940’s, Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland began researching solutions to automatically read product information during grocery checkout after a request from the food chain, Food Fair. Their invention looked just like a bulls eye.
- Woodland and Silver sold the patent to Philco for $15,000 after struggling to come up with a practical way to read the barcode tags.
- A pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum was scanned at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio in June 1974 to become the first item ever scanned with a barcode as we know it today. The gum is now forever enshrined in history at the Smithsonian museum.
- Railroad companies saw the importance of setting up a system that would make it easier for them to identify incoming trains and because of this, were the first industry to make use of fully developed barcodes. These were made up of colours and the patent for the idea was bought up by RCA.
- Norman Joseph Woodland was inspired to work on a barcode when he made a hand print in the sand, and then realised that bars could work as a visual representation of Morse code.
- The first numbered barcode reader was used by an automobile plant in 1972 to identify brake axles created by General Motors plant in Michigan.
- The first barcode scanners were water cooled and because of this, they were enourmous, and expensive. Because of this, early uptake was slow and almost caused the death of barcode technology.
- 5 Billion barcodes are scanned worldwide every day.
- A 13-digit barcode can produce ten thousand billion unique codes. Thats 10 000 000 000 000 different combinations!
- The average typist will make one mistake in 300 keystrokes. But the chance of a barcode error is roughly one in a million, and then that error will likely be human error when loading the barcode in the first place.
The US navy labels 50ft boats with 2ft-long barcodes which are in storage at its West Point military academy in NY. These massive barcodes store information about the boats and their previous missions.
- Two- dimensional barcodes, with bars of different heights, were introduced in 1988. They can carry 100 times more information than the original system.
- TOMY released the Barcode Battler computer game in 1992. Players insert a barcode into the machine which scans it and converts it into a character, who is then put into action in the fight game.
- You can barcode yourself by logging on to http://www.barcodeart.com. Just follow the instructions and your personal barcode will pop up onscreen, ready for printing, tattooing, etc.
- MAD magazine printed a giant barcode on its front cover in April 1978 with the title: “MAD Hopes this issue jams every computer in the country”.
- Chinese barcodes start with an eight, because it is pronounced the same way as the word for “prosperity” and this is considered to be a lucky number.
- The future of barcodes is no barcode at all. Predictions are that radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are added to packaging before purchase will replace the barcode and for checking out purposes, are much more effecient.