About barcodes and their origins

Although the barcode label is now a common sight, its invention revolutionised the way that products could be identified by the simple use of an electronic reader or scanner, Its beginnings date back to the late 1940’s when an American food retailer was hoping to find a way that food products could be automatically identified at the checkout to avoid having to price each individual item on the shelves and then manually punch the price into the cash register.

A student Bernard Silver overheard the conversation and with the help of friend and fellow graduate Bernard Woodland, they set about trying to come up with the answer. Following ideas based on the Morse code the pair eventually filed for a patent in 1948 which was subsequently granted in 1952.

Woodland joined IBM and although they were interested in the idea, the patent was eventually sold to RCA. The first recorded use of bar-coding was at a food store in Ohio using a scanner by the NCR corporation and the very first known item to be scanned in a retail setting was a ten pack of Wrigley’s Fruit Gum, and a revolution in retailing began to take shape.

Although many think that barcode is used only for products which are sold in a retail setting, they are now used for a multitude of purposes having the ability to carry and retain the information quickly and identified by a scanning process.

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