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Happy Birthday To The Barcode

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Happy Birthday To The Barcode

Barcode Label Turns 60 After Patent Anniversary

The barcode, one of the most recognizable labels in the world, has turned 60 years old after the anniversary of its first patent issued on Oct. 7, 1952. Norman Joseph Woodland, the father of the barcode, first worked on the idea in response to the growing need for an inventory-tracking system during the grocery industry boom of the 1930s and '40s.

Originally, the barcode had only four lines. It was unlike the modern Universal Product Code that is used today, which didn't make an appearance until 1974 when it was first used to log a pack of Wrigley's gum.

Barcode Labels Still Hold Their Own
According to English regulator GS1 UK, there are more than 5 million individual barcode labels used worldwide. The optically scanned and ubiquitous code is used on a wide range of product labels and packages, including food, soaps, wine and produce stickers.

The barcode isn't in any danger of falling by the wayside despite the emergence of QR codes in recent years.

"They have different purposes – the barcode on the side of a tin of beans is for point-of-sale scanning. It ensures the consumer is charged the right amount and updates stock records," said Gary Lynch, chief executive of GS1 UK. "The QR code's main purpose is to take the person that scans it to an extended multimedia environment."