How many cans of beans are there left in the backroom store of the supermarket when you have bought the last 3 on the shelves? The invention of the barcode has the ability to tell the cashier almost immediately – if she/he were interested that is … but more especially the warehouse will know and could re-order when stocks are low – without having to count up the cases and loose tins still left on the shelves behind the scenes.
In 1948 Norman Woodland and Ben Silver developed a fore-runner of the current system that used concentric circles with different spacing and widths. He also devised a bar system very similar to the current black and white bars By 1971 the system had become far more recognisable as the system we now use and in 1973 an International Code ( The Universal Product Code) was established.
The first product reputed to have been sold using the coded system is said to be a pack of chewing gum, sold in Ohio, USA. Norman Woodland’s contribution to organising our lives with the barcode system was recognised with an award in 1992; the National Medal of Technology.