What You Didn’t Know About Barcodes

Barcodes are brilliant.

Refined with the intention of streamlining commercial processes such as automated supermarket checkout systems, barcodes have come a long way since their introduction in 1974.

Barcode printer supplied by GSM barcoding
The black and white striped markings are recognisable on almost everything that we purchase across the world, but what exactly are barcodes? And why do we need them?

Take a look below at some of the fascinating things you didn’t know about barcodes.

What Are Barcodes?

Many will understand barcodes to be the little label on a product that is made up of black and white stripes that are scanned at the checkout when purchasing a product.

However, these little labels actually hold far more information than the average person understands.

Made up of binary coding, barcodes are used across many industries to track products and create data.

Once they are scanned, information can be gathered on one particular product; barcodes have revolutionised various systems, from supermarket checkout systems to stock control solutions.

5 Fun Facts

  1. Wrigley’s Chewing Gum was the first product to be scanned with UPC

Back in the summer of 1974, a grocery market in Ohio was the first to try out the scanning of UPC’s (Unique product codes) in their automated checkout system. The first product to come down the conveyor belt? A 10-pack of Wrigley’s juicy fruit gum.

The gum has since been recognised in consumer history and is kept on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

  1. The first ever use was in Railroad cars

An undergraduate from MIT by the name of David Collins was one of the first individuals to note the importance of barcoding and implement it at his place of employment…the Pennsylvania Railroad.

After the need to automatically identify railroad cars became apparent, Collins developed a system called KarTrak that used blue and red reflective stripes to transmit a six-digit company identifier and a four-digit car number, alleviating the issue at hand.

  1. Sunlight prevented barcodes from being read

When barcodes were first introduced in a widespread fashion, teething issues began to arise; one of the most prominent being the inability to read the barcode due to the sunlight that was shining in through the windows of the shop.

The sunlight had a damaging effect on the brand new technology, and the labels became obsolete. However, this was soon alleviated, welcoming the barcodes that we know and love, today.

  1. There are over 10 thousand billion unique codes available

Linear barcodes are made up of 12 digits:

First Number: Product Type

Next 5 Numbers: The Manufacturer Code

Next 5 Numbers to the Right: Product Code

Final Number: Check Digit (a Self-Policing System)

This means that there are over 10 thousand billion unique codes available. That’s a lot of information available!

  1. QR codes for graves

A company specialising in headstones for graves updated its processes for the first time in 5,000 years in 2011 with attachable QR codes for gravestones.

The barcode, when scanned, will direct the user to a specific webpage maintained by the family of the deceased and will hold images, videos and epitaphs for visitors to view.

The company, ‘Living Headstones’, believe that the interactive ‘living’ memorial will keep memories alive of the deceased, and as they can be accessed all over the world, they will bring together families like never before.

For all of your barcoding queries, contact GSM Barcoding – we have over 40 years of specialised experience in barcode systems, solutions and inventory systems services.

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