The history of barcode printing goes back in 1948 and features Bernard Silver, a graduate student and his friend Norman Woodland. The demand for a system that would automatically read product information during checkout came from the president of Food Fair, the local food chain in Philadelphia.

Using Morse code as inspiration, Woodland and Silver proceeded with their ideas, and in 1949 filed a patent application for a new system of printing patterns and reading system. Two years later, Woodland moved to IBM and tried to interest the company in developing the system.

Despite the interest, the conclusion was that it would take patience for more adequate technology to be developed in the future.

The next person to work on what we nowadays know as barcode was David Collins. As he was working at Pennsylvania Railroad, he became aware of the need to automatically identify railroad cars. He developed an interesting method using blue and yellow reflective stripes attached to the side of the cars, encoding a six digit company identifier and a four-digit car number. Light reflected off the stripes was fed into one of two photomultipliers, filtered for blue or yellow. This system had its faults, but was another step that contributed to the universal adoption of the barcodes.

In 1971 IBM remembered they still employed Woodland, so a new facility in North Carolina was established. Gradually, after failures and improvements, the barcode started to be adopted by more and more commercial chains, especially after exact data regarding the return on investment for a barcode scanner became available.

As expected, extremists and supports of the conspiracy theory did not greet the barcodes very friendly. But their advantages eventually neutralized extreme opinions.

Resource: Wikipedia

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