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May 16, 2017


Fun facts about barcodes

by Marko Vrbnjak

They don’t get much attention, but barcodes are one of the most important inventions ever. They have an incredibly important role in improving the way businesses capture and share information, as well as optimizing the movement of items along the supply chain. The story of barcodes begins with Joseph Norman Woodland who, inspired by Morse code, drew the first ever barcode in the sand on a Florida beach. He was trying to solve a problem posed by a supermarket executive to his employer, the Drexel Institute. The idea was patented in 1952, but it would be June of 1974 before the first ever barcode was scanned at a Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The item was a ten pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum.

Download your free handbook to learn more about the barcodes, how to comply with the standards and create your own barcodes that scan successfully every time: The GS1 Handbook – How To Barcode Your Product

Here are some more interesting barcode facts:

  • Barcodes were first used to label railroad cars so railroad companies could identify incoming trains and prevent them from colliding. Barcodes were fully developed by the railroad industry and a special code system was created for this purpose.
  • Not only was the first commercial product with a barcode scanned at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio, but the first UPC scanner was installed there as well.
  • Barcodes are scanned with a 99.99% success rate.
  • In Seattle, QR codes are inscribed on graves which contain a link to the detailed information about the deceased person.
  • Barcode data can only be read by barcode readers, a special optical scanner.
  • Barcodes contain the number 666 (either the number set, or the control sum) which has led some to connect them with the bible’s ‘mark of the beast’. George J. Laurer, developer of the UPC code, had to make a public statement addressing the accusation!

Do you have any other interesting facts about barcodes you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section!

You can find out all about the GS1 system, how to create barcodes correctly and how to verify them in The GS1 Handbook – How To Barcode Your Product and read more on other barcode related tips here.