100 years in…Technology Part 2

Science, Technology 2014-11-14

Last week at Notch we were looking at Part of 1 of life-changing technological inventions of the last 100 years. This week we will be covering part 2, the invention of the ingenious barcode.


!00 Years Of Tech


Baa code, the sheep of all supermarkets 


In 1948 a supermarket executive came to the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia with a request, he wanted a technology that could encode information about his products. A student named Bernard Silver teamed up with fellow graduate student Norman Joseph Woodland to work on a solution.


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 7th 1952, they were granted a patent for their “Classifying Apparatus and Method” & efforts in developing it grew until the 1960s.


Little did they know they had just invented the ‘Barcode’, which was going to spark a worldwide business revolution. A barcode is a machine-readable code in the form of numbers and a pattern of parallel lines of varying widths, printed on a commodity.


The first commercial use of the barcode was in 1966 in March’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio, and the first product to have a barcode included was a packet of Wrigley’s gum. Ever since it was introduced in the 1960s, it’s become more and more popular as manufacturers and retailers worldwide witnessed the concept of the barcode and realised its benefits.


The main advantage of the barcode is that it eliminates the possibility of human errors. Barcodes also promote better decision-making, because data is obtained rapidly and accurately, making it possible to make more informed decisions. Data obtained through barcodes is also available for processing rapidly, the information is scanned directly into the central computer and it’s ready almost instantaneously.


In recent years smartphones have incorporated a feature that allows users to scan a two-dimensional matrix barcode, the so-called ‘quick response’ (QR) code to retrieve certain information. QR codes can be easily made and are so popular that people create QR codes for events, festivals or exhibitions in a matter of minutes.


Banks and businesses have now generated special QR codes so that you can make direct payments via the code scanned. The idea of money transfer through QR codes had contributed to Apple’s new invention of ‘Apple pay’– a new feature on Apple products that allows users to send payment instantly via wireless payment in stores.


Here is an interesting fact – there are over a hundred different bar code symbols invented. However, only a half-dozen are used regularly.


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Image references:

QR code