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Barcode Labels History - Part 2

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Barcode Labels started with an overheard conversation!

"The president of a grocery chain asked the dean of the school to work on the idea."
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The actual barcode idea was born in 1948 with two graduate students who were attending the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philidelphia. The president of a local grocery chain had asked one of the deans at Drexel about the idea of automatically reading product information at the check out counter. The dean decided not to take the idea on, but it so happened that Bernard Silver had overheard the conversation that day, and before you know it he was discussing it with a fellow graduate student and teacher, 27 year old Norman Woodland. The two students took on the challenge and ended up revolutionizing commerce for the decades to follow.

The original patent drawing (at right) filed in 1949 showed the bull's eye style barcode

barcode labels patent
Their first idea at the time the patent filing was a bull's eye shaped mark made up of a series of concentric circles. Implementation of the duo's invention took 22 years, but the two stayed fast with their idea. After Drexel, Woodland worked at IBM and got them behind the development of the technology too. While there, he and Silver worked in the living room at Woodland's home to prove that a reader could be developed that would translate the printed coded information into electronic data that could be read. The first scanner prototype was about the size of a desk and it contained two key elements, a 500 watt incandescent bulb and a RCA photo-multiplier tube designed for sound systems as the reader. They hooked up the RCA component to an oscilloscope and moved a paper marked with lines across a thin beam from the light source. As the paper moved the oscilloscope moved in step with the marks on the moving paper. The paper began to catch fire a few times, but the pair had proved that a device could be created that electronically read the printed pattern. The barcode scanner was possible!

Adoption of the methodology by the Uniform Product Code Council (UPCC) marked the true launch of the barcode into general use in commerce. The first live scan of a UPC bar code occured as a part of the numbering system put forth by the UPCC on June 26th, 1974. The UPC code is made up of a row of 59 black and white bars and 12 digits. The bars and the digits both identify the product and manufacturer. Where was that first UPC barcode label scanned? For the record, at a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio and a package of Wrigley's gum was the first product scanned using the UPC system. From that date on, the barcode labels were used extensively in groceries and retail, saving those industries billions and making the consumer's check-out experience much quicker.The technology had a few early adopters along the way too, as early as 1966 barcodes were used commercially but there was no accepted

  standardization in place. The first try at industry standards came with something called the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code (UGPIC) in 1970. The Kroger store chain in Cincinnati began using a bull’s-eye code in 1972. Around the same time, the grocery industry formed a committee to decide on a standard for the industry. Based on the earlier UGPIC work, IBM proposed a design that was chosen as the standard. George Laurer is credited with developing the Uniform Product Code (UPC) in 1973, and once accepted by the grocery industry, the door was open for the widespread spread of the use of barcoding. In the code, the company prefix allowed the barcode to be tied to the manufacturer, and by 1980 their were 10,000 prefixes issued. By 1992, the number shot up to 100,000 and doubled with 5 years to 200,000 in 1997. By 2003, there were 300,000 different company prefixes issued to users of the UPC system.

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