Bar Codes

Norman Woodland, a 27-year-old graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia developed the first code system that automatically read product information during checkout. Woodland and his friend Silver were awarded a patent for their application titled Classifying Apparatus and Method on October 7, 1952. Many experts are of the view that the Woodland and Silver bar code was the basis of what would soon become a global phenomenon.

In the beginning, barcodes were developed to store data in the spacing of printed parallel lines. The idea was to help grocery stores speed up the checkout process and keep better track of the inventory. However, the system soon picked up and became a success story.

Barcodes form the basis of identification in almost all types of businesses in the modern world. Barcodes are variously called as Universal Product Codes or UPCs. These are machine-readable codes and come in strips, generally comprising of a series of short black lines of varied thickness. These codes are read by optical scanners called barcode readers or scanned from an image by special software. A laser reader or scanner can translate the barcodes into the corresponding alpha-numeric digits, which are used to uniquely identify a piece of property. Barcodes are used world over to implement Auto ID Data Capture (AIDC) systems that improve the speed and accuracy of computer data entry.

At present, we have codes in several patterns of dots, concentric circles and hidden in images. Barcodes are provided by a body called Uniform Code Council (UCC). A manufacturer has to apply to the UCC for permission to enter the UPC system. An annual fee is charged for the service. In return, the UCC issues the manufacturer a six-digit manufacturer identification number. The manufacturer identification number is part of a standard 12-digit bar code.

Bar coding standards have brought about great precision, technical refinement and uniformity in the way business is conducted in the world. Throughout the world, most of the data entry is done much more quickly. All data is collected in real time. Bar codes have also led to the elimination of manual data entry and retrieval system. The coding has completely streamlined products, making the most effective use of human and physical resources.

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