Barcode Invention – Who Invented It & How It Changed the World

Barcodes have changed the world and can be found on almost any product or package produced today. The simple collection of lines printed on a piece of paper is considered by many as one of the most important inventions of the 20th Century and yet is taken for granted and ignored.

Who Invented the Barcode & When

The invention of this system is credited to Joseph Woodland. He became obsessed with the idea, which his friend Bernard Silver shared with him, and he dropped out of school to concentrate on creating a viable product. They started the process in the 1940’s, and it was first used commercially in 1974.

The idea came to Woodland from his friend, Bernard Silver, who overheard a supermarket executive’s wish of having an automatic system for capturing product information.

He later came up with the idea of using Morse Code on a piece of paper. But instead of using dots and dashes, he extended the dots and dashes to form a series of broad and thin lines.

Woodland and Silver later also developed a scanner that can read the broad and thin lines and the barcode was born.

How the Invention of the Barcode Has Changed the World

Maintaining inventories became easier
Very small businesses can probably survive by simply keeping a list of all of products. Any supermarket needs to keep track of thousands of brands and ‘stock keeping units’ aka SKUs.

The primitive way of maintaining inventories is count every box and can of goods. A medium-sized grocery will take a day or two and in the old days stores would close until the process was done.

It was in 1974 in a store in Ohio when the barcode was first used commercially. Now, stores big and small all over the world are using the technology. When a store manager or owner need information on a certain product, all he needs to do is scan a barcode.

Maintaining inventories became more accurate
The invention of the barcode has also made inventories more accurate. Before the standardization of the barcode, the system of keeping inventory involved clerks listing products manually. This process was very inaccurate and resulted in plenty of errors. These errors could translate to business losses amounting to thousands of dollars if left unchecked.

Supermarket queues became shorter
The invention of the bar code also made things easier and more convenient for consumers. Now, they don’t have to wait long in line for their purchases to be processed since there is no more need to manually record the transaction.

Keeping track of freight cars became possible
Before the 1960s, railroad companies had a hard time keeping track of freight cars. They wandered from one place to another and did not stay on a single railroad line. Tracking freight cars was one of the most complex tasks railroads faced.

It was David J. Collins, holder of a master’s degree from MIT, who came up with a system that helped railroad companies keep track of freight cars automatically.

He developed a coding system to help label the cars. Strictly speaking, the code developed by Collins is not barcode – it uses colored lines printed on reflective material – but the underlying principle is the same.

The barcode can help fashion become more sustainable
A group called the Sustainable Fashion Coalition (SAC), which is composed of a third of the clothing and footwear market worldwide is considering using a Quick Response (QR) coding system to allow consumers to scan clothing labels to access information about the items they are buying.

The QR code system can be considered as the grandson of the barcode system since it is based on the same principles. Through this, consumers can make more informed choices and become more aware of the item’s origins as well as its environmental impact.

DNA barcoding may soon become a reality
A project called the International Barcode of Life is now underway. It aims to compile a catalog of all species of life on earth. In the future, it may not be unusual to see shoppers scan a red snapper using their smart phones or a dedicated DNA scanning device.

DNA barcoding is also seen to boost the efforts of conversationists. Currently, researches are already using barcodes to track the mating habits of insects such as bees.

Barcode technology continues to grow and evolve. New technologies and inventions continue to expand its use. As experts in the field of barcode technology, Peak Technologies keeps up with every step forward.

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The last few months have been incredibly exciting for our organization.  In early April, we changed ownership to Sole Source Capital, an experienced private equity company focused on the industrial services market and committed to our growth. With Sole Source’s support, we have added tremendous capabilities, resources, and industry expertise to the Peak portfolio through the acquisition of three companies in the last 60 days. 

Along with these exciting developments comes a renewed sense of commitment and purpose. To celebrate this exciting new chapter, we wanted to use this opportunity to reflect on our past, while looking forward to the future.  We are extremely pleased to announce that we have changed our company name to Peak Technologies, Inc. 

For many of our long-time customers, this is a return to the company name that had been in place since our founding in 1981.  When we merged with Ryzex in 2011, we combined our names to symbolize the union of two industry leaders.  But over the last few years, we have become ONE Peak, added additional capabilities, battled through a pandemic together, and feel that the time is now to re-brand the company as we look forward to the future. 

For additional information on the company name change, click here.