October 07, 2009

News from all over - Barcodes

Google celebrates the first patent for bar code and notes the earlier birthday of bar code scanning. Points to IBM as inventor.

Google bar code logo latest in ‘doodle’ line
Google celebrates the 57th anniversary of the first bar code patent.

By Amy Farnsworth | 10.07.09
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Today, the usual Google logo has been replaced by the ubiquitous black-and-white bar code design to celebrate the 57th anniversary of the first bar code patent.

On October 7, 1952, inventors Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver were granted the first patent for their invention. The only difference between the bar code we know today and the one Woodland and Silver invented was that it was comprised of a series of concentric circles, not the 59 black-and-white vertical lines synonymous with the current design.

Earlier this year, on June 26, the bar code celebrated its 35th birthday. In 1974, a scanner in a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, met the simple black-and-white striped bar code design tacked onto a 10-piece pack of Juicy fruit gum. Now, more than 10 billion bar codes are scanned in 25 industries and in places including airports, hospitals, and shipping centers, according to Motorola.

TechCrunch reports that the Google logo bar code spells out “Google” using Code 128, which they describe as “a standard way of encoding ASCII character strings (ie. A-Z, a-z, 0-9, etc.) into a bar code.”

patent link

Today marks a notable moment in technology: When scanner met bar code.

On June 26, 1974, the simple black-and-white striped bar code design tacked onto a 10-piece pack of Juicy fruit gum, scanned its way into retail history. Since that first scan in a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, bar codes have evolved past the grocery store for various uses in airports, hospitals, and shipping centers.

It’s hard to imagine, but before the good ol’ bar code made its appearance, grocery store clerks had to ring up every item the old fashioned-way – by manually punching each purchase into a cash register. But slow service at the checkout counter inspired IBM to create a more efficient grocery checkout system that would not only be faster, but enable stores to track inventory. What they came up with was the ubiquitous design you know today: 59 black and white lines that are synonymous with retail stores everywhere.

The luxuries of scanning

Today more than 10 billion Universal Product Codes (UPCs) are scanned in 25 industries, according to Motorola, which bought the company that invented the technology. And bar codes are starting to pop up in new places – on cell phones allowing for easier check-in at the airport or for instant access to discount coupons. Bar codes are even being used for scientific research – some scientists have attached tiny bar codes to bees to track their pollination. Bar codes have also been the muse for some artists including Scott Blake who has built portraits of celebrities Jesus and Marilyn Monroe from bar codes. And did you know the bar code had a brief stint in the video game world? In 1991, the bar code gained recognition among gamers with the release of the game console, “Barcode Battler.”

It’s pretty neat to see how the bar code has impacted so many different aspects of our daily lives.

Posted by staff at October 7, 2009 10:55 AM