The History of Barcodes: Who Created the Barcode?

The History of Barcodes

Food barcodes and product barcodes first made an impact in 1970s. Before the first barcode scanner installation in 1974, though, creating and refining the UPC barcoding system took decades. In fact, its first commercial use was actually in the 1960s. But, it could not be used in a widespread fashion at that time because an industry standard had not yet been developed. Now, metal bar codes as well as product and food barcodes are the standard. It took the progress of many people, though, to reach the industry standard used today.

Who Created the Barcode?

metal barcode labels

The idea of a universal food and product barcode system originated in 1932 with Wallace Flint. Flint suggested an automated retail checkout system but, this idea was originally rejected. He continued to work on his concept and was later influential in the development of the UPC barcoding system. With Flint’s inspiration, several different kinds of codes, such as bull’s eye codes and numeral codes, were experimented with between the years of 1930-1970.

It was two students from the Drexel Institute of Technology who accelerated the progress to where it is today. Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland were commissioned by the college to develop a solution to an automated checkout. Their first suggestion was an ink that was sensitive to ultraviolet light. But, it was rejected as overly complicated and expensive. In 1952 they were granted a patent for their barcode concept under the category of Classifying Apparatus and Method.

Between the 60s and the 70s the code created by Silver and Woodland was refined and spread. Eventually, IBM came up with the UPC symbol code, which was selected as the industry standard. After this, Monarch Marking produced the first barcode equipment for retail use. The first barcode equipment for industrial use, including metal bar codes, was produced by Plessy Telecommunications.

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