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Who Invented the Barcode? Find Out the Surprising Answer

Unlocking the Mystery: Discover Who Actually Invented the Barcode

Who Invented the Barcode?

Who Invented the Barcode?

Overview of Barcodes

Barcodes have become an everyday part of our lives today, used for tracking products in transit, inventory control, and sales and purchasing data. They consist of a series of vertical bars and spaces that store product information.

The First Barcodes

The first barcode was invented in 1948 by Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland. They were students at Drexel University and were inspired by Morse code, using dots and dashes to represent information. They wanted to create a system that could quickly and easily read product information, and thus the barcode was born. Their first design was a circular bullseye design, but they eventually settled on the linear barcode design that is used today.

The Modern Barcode

In the 1960s, David Collins took the concept of the barcode created by Silver and Woodland and revolutionized it. Collins worked for a company called Sylvania, which needed a way to track railroad cars. He created a barcode that could be read by a computer, which allowed for automated checkouts and inventory control.The first modern barcode was introduced in 1974 when a pack of chewing gum was scanned at a Marsh Supermarket in Ohio. This event marked the beginning of a new era in retail and inventory management.Over the years, barcodes have undergone many changes and improvements. Today, they come in different types and formats, such as QR codes and UPC codes. They have also become more versatile, being used for mobile payments and event ticketing.In conclusion, the invention of the barcode has had a significant impact on the way we track and manage product information. From its humble beginnings in 1948 to becoming a ubiquitous part of modern life, barcodes have come a long way. Thanks to the ingenuity and innovation of Silver, Woodland, and Collins, we have a revolutionary system that has made our lives easier and more efficient.

Who Invented the Barcode?

The barcode, which is a visual representation of data that can be read by machine, has become an integral part of our daily lives, especially in retail and logistics. However, you might be surprised to know that the inventor of the barcode was not a big corporation, but a lone inventor named Norman Joseph Woodland.

Norman Joseph Woodland was born on September 6, 1921, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and also worked for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) before moving on to work for IBM, where he co-invented the barcode. While working on a project to develop a code to read product information for supermarkets, Woodland had the idea to use a series of narrow lines instead of traditional Morse code to encode data.

Initially, Woodland used sandpaper to draw the first barcode, which resembled a bull’s eye. To decode the barcode, Woodland and his co-inventor, Bernard Silver, developed a scanner that used light and photoelectric cells that could read the bars in the code. They filled a patent for their invention in 1949, which was granted in 1952.

Although Woodland and Silver’s invention was groundbreaking, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the barcode found its way into grocery stores, beginning with a pilot program at a Kroger store in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first products to bear a barcode were Wrigley’s gum and a pack of Juicy Fruit. The barcode would revolutionize inventory and supply chain management for retailers, eventually becoming the universal standard for tracking products.

Types of Barcodes

Since its invention, the barcode has evolved into various types, each with its unique purpose and design. Here are some popular types of barcodes:


The Universal Product Code (UPC) is the most common barcode used in retail, with numbers that correspond to a specific product. The UPC code is a 12 digit code, with the first six digits identifying the manufacturer and the next five digits identifying the product. The last digit is a check digit that ensures accuracy when scanning the barcode.

QR Codes

Quick Response (QR) codes are a two-dimensional barcode that can store more information than traditional barcodes. They are commonly used for marketing. A QR code can contain up to 7,089 characters, allowing companies to link to websites, images, or videos. QR codes are popular in advertising and promotional campaigns, as they can be easily scanned using smartphones.

Data Matrix Codes

Data Matrix Codes are similar to QR codes and can store more information. They are used in logistics and supply chain management. Data Matrix codes are two-dimensional barcodes that can hold up to 2,355 alphanumeric characters. Data matrix codes are designed to be smaller than a QR code, making them ideal for products with limited space.

In conclusion, Norman Joseph Woodland's simple invention of the barcode has transformed the world of retail and logistics, changing the way businesses track and manage their inventory. From grocery stores to manufacturing plants to hospitals, the barcode has become a ubiquitous presence in our daily lives. The barcode has evolved into different types, each with its specific purpose and design, allowing companies to track their products more effectively and efficiently.

Who Invented Barcode

Barcode is a ubiquitous feature of the modern world, which has revolutionized the way we track inventory, sales data and medical supplies. It is also a critical technology of supply chain management in the transportation and logistics industry. However, the use of barcodes was not always around, its inception is owed to the hard work and persistence of two inventors.

The Inventors

Barcodes were invented in the late 1940s by Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. Woodland and Silver were students at the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia when they came up with the idea, after an encounter with a local grocery store executive who was struggling to manage the store's inventory.

The two inventors decided to create a system that could read product information through a set of parallel lines on packages. They started working on the concept, and within two years, they came up with a prototype of what we now know as a barcode.

Early Barcode Applications

After the science of barcodes was confirmed, its commercial applications proved an immediate success, with a few of the earliest experiments performed in the manufacturing industry. Later, it was retail stores that adopted the technology for product tracking and inventory control. By adding barcodes, retailers were able to sell items at a faster pace, while maintaining accurate inventory records at all times.

Usage of the technology then expanded to logistics and healthcare sectors, with businesses using barcodes for tracking shipments and patient identification, respectively

Uses of Barcodes

Retail and Sales

Barcodes have made their biggest impact in retail stores. They are used widely today for inventory control, sales data and product tracking. By using barcodes for these tasks, retailers are able to save time and manage their inventories with greater precision. They can track the inventory of each product, know precisely when to restock and automate data with their sales systems.

Barcodes have also helped in checking the legitimacy of a product. A barcode can scan the sale price of a product, and if it matches the record, the product's authenticity is confirmed. Retailers are also now able to track items that are selling quickly and quickly reorder, meaning they are less likely to sell out of popular products.


Barcodes are perfect applications in the healthcare industry, particularly for tracking medical supplies and managing patient data. Bar-coded medical supplies can be quickly sorted and counted, enabling stocktaking, accurate billing and access to clear information about the history of the patient.

Bar-coding is also helpful in locating patients. Hospitals can use bar-coded ID bracelets, thus ensuring that the right prescription is given to the right patient. It also helps to reduce the risk of medical errors, as there is more accurate tracking and identification.

Transportation and Logistics

Barcodes have had a tremendous impact on the logistics and transportation sector, where they are used to track products in transit, and manage inventory more efficiently. In tracking shipments, barcodes are used to give information on the location, time and date of the product. This guarantees that products are sent to the correct location, increasing the speed and accuracy of product deliveries.

As logistics become more complex and geographically spread out, barcode technology continues to play an important role in tracking the activities of supplies, including pricing information, invoicing and stock management


Barcodes are an essential part of modern-day business operations. They have revolutionized the traditional method of manual data entry, which was prone to errors and delays. Today, thanks to Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver's resourcefulness in creating this groundbreaking technology, barcodes are prevalent in a wide range of industries including retail, healthcare and logistics.

Their effectiveness in speeding up transactions, managing inventory, and reducing supply chain complexities has made them crucial elements of businesses worldwide. As technology continues to evolve, it is expected that other novel applications for barcode use will continue to emerge, giving businesses increasingly efficient ways of operating their business model.

Who Invented Barcode?

A barcode is a unique sequence of lines, spaces, and dots that is used to identify products. This important tool that we use today took a long time to develop, and many inventors have contributed to its creation.

In 1948, Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver were students at Philadelphia's Drexel University. While brainstorming project ideas for a local grocery store owner, they came up with the concept of a barcode system to automate the checkout process. The idea was to scan a code to instantly retrieve product information from a computer database.

The duo submitted a patent application for their invention in 1949, but it took several years for their idea to gain traction. In the 1960s, the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) began looking for a standardized system of grocery store checkout that would increase efficiency and save costs. Woodland and Silver’s barcode technology became a point of interest for the NAFC, and they finally gained recognition for their invention. The modern barcode we use today was first used in a supermarket in Ohio in June 1974, and since then it has revolutionized the retail industry.

Types of Barcodes

Since the invention of the barcode, various types have emerged, each designed for a specific purpose. Some of the popular barcode types include:

UPC Barcode

The UPC barcode is perhaps the most commonly used barcode and is mainly used in the retail industry. It consists of twelve digits and is displayed as a series of lines and spaces of varying widths. The first six digits represent the manufacturer code, and the last six digits represent the item code.

QR Code

The QR code, which stands for Quick Response code, is a 2-dimensional barcode that is commonly used in marketing. It can store more information than regular barcodes and can be scanned using smartphones and other mobile devices. With the QR code, consumers can access more detailed information about a product, company or service.

Data Matrix Code

The Data Matrix code is a 2-dimensional square barcode that is often used for tracking products. It can store more data than the traditional barcode, and as such, it is perfect for small items that do not have enough space for a larger barcode.

Codable Magnets

Codable magnets are an innovative type of barcode that can be used to track and identify products in harsh environments such as oil rigs, mines, and steelworks. They work using magnetic fields rather than the traditional line and space format that is used in regular barcodes.

The Future of Barcodes

Augmented Reality Barcodes

Augmented Reality (AR) barcodes are expected to become more common in the future. These barcodes will allow consumers to access product information in real-time using their smartphones or other devices. With the AR technology, consumers can get more detailed information and even see how the product would appear in real life. Companies stand to gain improved engagement with consumers through the enhanced customer experience that augmented reality barcodes offer.

Blockchain-Based Barcodes

Blockchain-based barcodes are being researched as a more secure way to track products in transit. These barcodes will use blockchain technology to ensure the authenticity of products and improve supply chain integrity. Unlike traditional barcodes, blockchain-based barcodes cannot be duplicated or corrupted. This will help reduce the risk of counterfeit products and prevent goods from being diverted from their intended destination.

Motion Barcodes

Motion barcodes are a new type of barcode that can be read by cameras in motion. These barcodes will improve efficiency in automated warehouses and logistics. They are designed to work with robots that move quickly through warehouses, carrying items such as boxes and crates. By having the ability to read barcodes in motion, it will help reduce errors and streamline the handling of goods in these facilities.


The barcode has come a long way since its invention back in 1948. Today, it plays a critical role in modern commerce and is used worldwide. Innovative technologies such as augmented reality, blockchain-based, and motion barcodes are expected to improve efficiency, increase security, and enhance the overall shopping experience for consumers in the future.

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