While it may seem like barcodes have been with
us forever, barcodes didn’t really make an impact until the 1970’s. It wasn’t
until 1974 that the first barcode scanner was employed and the first product
But the idea had been around for quite awhile.
In 1932, Wallace Flint suggested that an automated retail checkout system might
be feasible. While his concept was deemed unworkable, Flint continued to
support the idea of automated checkout throughout his career. In fact, Flint,
who went on to become the vice-president of the association of food chains some
40 years later, was instrumental in the development of the UPC code.
During the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s several code
formats were developed including a bull’s-eye code, numeral codes, and various
other formats. Retail applications drove the early technological developments of
bar coding, but industrial applications soon followed.
Uses of Barcodes
In 1948, a local food chain store owner
approached Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia asking about research
into a method of automatically reading product information during checkout.
Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute, along with fellow
graduate student Norman Joseph Woodland, teamed together to develop a solution.
Woodland first proposed using ultraviolet light
sensitive ink. A working prototype was built but rejected as being too unstable
On October 20, 1949, Woodland and Silver
succeeded in building a working prototype describing their invention as “article
classification…through the medium of identifying patterns”. On October 7, 1952,
they were granted a patent (US Patent #2,612,994) for their “Classifying
Apparatus and Method”.
Efforts to develop a working system accelerated
in the 1960’s.
First Commercial Use
Bar coding was first used commercially in 1966,
but to make the system acceptable to the industry as a whole there would have to
be some sort of industry standard. By 1970, Logicon Inc. had developed the
Universal Grocery Products Identification Code (UGPIC). The first company to
produce barcode equipment for retail trade using (using UGPIC) was the American
company Monarch Marking (1970), and for industrial use, the British company
Plessey Telecommunications (1970).
In 1972, a Kroger store in Cincinnati began using
a bull’s-eye code. During that same timeframe, a committee was formed within
the grocery industry to select a standard code to be used in the industry. IBM
proposed a design, based upon the UGPIC work and similar to today’s UPC code. On
April 3, 1973, the committee selected the UPC symbol (based on the IBM proposal)
as the industry standard. The success of the system since then has spurred on
the development of other coding systems. George J. Laurer is considered the
inventor of U.P.C. or Uniform Product Code.
First UPC Scanner
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
barcode was Wrigley’s Gum.
Bars & Stripes first
Stripes was first introduced to the market in 1991 by Tippecanoe
Systems, Inc. Since then, Bars & Stripes has gone on to be one of the
industry's most popular barcode software applications enabling small businesses
to adopt bar coding with minimal expense.