[Video] Barcode Labeling History: Before Barcodes

by Craig Hodgson, on July 8, 2016

Before the late 1960s, supply chain management was a cumbersome process. In grocery stores and other retail environments, inventory could only be done by counting items by hand. As a result, managers often relied on estimates, rather than exact data.

However, in 1948 Joe Woodland got an idea for some kind of code that could be printed on groceries and scanned at checkout so lines could move more quickly and efficiently. Working with Bob Silver, Woodland created prototype patterns of ink that glowed when exposed to ultraviolet light.

The next year, the two filed a patent application for this method, which they received in 1952. But it would be some time before barcode labels began to appear in stores.