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Inventors Bar Codes
By Mary Bellis

What is bar code? It is method of automatic identification and data collection. The first patent for a bar code type product (US Patent #2,612,994) was issued to inventors Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver on October 7, 1952. The Woodland and Silver bar code can be described as a "bull's eye" symbol, made up of a series of concentric circles. 

Examine the 1958 patent drawing to the left that depicts the Woodland's and Silver's bar code label and the 1958 patent drawing below right of the inventors' bar code scanner technology. The photo below left is an example of today's U.P.C. bar code on a product package.

In 1948, Bernard Silver was a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia. A local food chain store owner had made an inquiry to the Drexel Institute asking about research into a method of automatically reading  product information during checkout. Bernard Silver joined together with fellow graduate student Norman Joseph Woodland to work on a solution.

Woodland's first idea was to use ultraviolet light sensitive ink. The team built a working prototype but decided that the system was too unstable and expensive. They went back to the drawing board.

On October 20, 1949, Woodland and Silver filed their patent application for the "Classifying Apparatus and Method", describing their invention as "article classification...through the medium of identifying patterns".

Bar code was first used commercially in 1966, however, it was soon realized that there would have to be some sort of industry standard set. By 1970, the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code or UGPIC was written by a company called Logicon Inc. The first company to produce bar code equipment for retail trade use (using UGPIC) was the American company Monarch Marking in 1970, and for industrial use, the British company Plessey Telecommunications was also first in 1970. UGPIC evolved into the U.P.C. symbol set  or Universal Product Code, which is still used in the United States. George J. Laurer is considered the inventor of U.P.C. or Uniform Product Code, which was invented in 1973.

In June of 1974, the first U.P.C. scanner was installed at a Marsh's supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The first product to have a bar code included was a packet of Wrigley's Gum.

Bar Code History
Beginning with 1932, when an ambitious project was conducted by a small group of students headed by Wallace Flint at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration. The project proposed that customers select desired merchandise from a catalog by removing corresponding punched cards from the catalog.
Development of the U.P.C. Symbol History
About 1970, McKinsey & Co. (a consulting firm) in conjunction with UGPCC (Uniform Grocery Product Code Council, a corporation formed by the grocery industries leading trade associations) defined a numeric format for product identification.
How do I get a bar code for my product?
How to obtain a Universal Product Code Identification Number.
George J. Laurer
George J. Laurer invented U.P.C. in 1973 - Patents & Recognition  For George Laurer
Uniform Code Council, Inc.
The UCC (formerly The Uniform Product Code Council, Inc.) is responsible for issuing product numbers, specification, etc.
Barcode Server
A toy that entertains and reveals things about your barcode.
Barcode 1
Complete information about bar codes.

Related Information
Shopping Innovations
Who created the first shopping mall and other trivia.

From Mary Bellis,
Your Guide to Inventors.
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