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The "invention" of the barcode did not happen overnight.  The first patent was filed by Joe Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1949 and granted in 1952.  As the story is often told, Joe Woodland got the inspiration while sitting on a beach where he drew lines instead of the dots and dashes known from Morse Code.  He further experimented with the idea that the lines could have varying widths, allowing unique combinations to provide identification.  Some 25 years later, on June 26, 1974, the first item -- a pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum -- was scanned at the checkout of the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio.  The barcode was born.

Since their conception and adoption, barcodes have been enablers for accurate data capture, the rapid movement of goods, and all types of automation. Whether at the point-of-sale, in a hospital, or in a manufacturing environment, these images deliver incredible value.

There are many different barcode symbologies, or languages, including Linear or 1D Symbologies, 2D Symbologies and Composit Symbologies.  Each symbology has its own rules for encoding characters (e.g., letter, number, punctuation), printing, decoding requirements, and error checking.  Barcode symbologies differ both in the way they represent data and in the type of data they can encode: some encode numbers; others encode numbers, letters, and a few punctuation characters; still others offer encodation of the 128 or 256 ASCII character sets. The latest symbologies include options to encode characters in any language as well as specialized data types.

Commonly used barcodes are covered by international standards, which also cover print quality measurements and equipment. These standards define:

  • Rules for representing data in an optically readable format,
  • Rules and techniques for printing or marking,
  • Reading and decoding techniques, and
  • Rules for measuring the quality of printed/marked symbols

Barcode scanners are either handheld or fixed-mount; typically, handheld scanners are used to read barcodes on stationary items and fixed-mount scanners are used with items passed by the scanner by hand. Scanners are include a means of illuminating the symbol and measuring reflected light. The light waveform data is converted from analog to digital, in order to be processed by a decoder, and then transmitted to the computer-based application software.

Printing barcodes may be produced in a variety of ways: by direct marking, as with laser etching or with ink jet printing; or more commonly, by imaging or printing the barcode symbol onto a separate label.

As barcode applications have become critical to a company’s success, the cost of scanning failure becomes ever more significant. Consequently, barcode quality and verification systems, once exclusively used by printers and label vendors, are now commonly used for on-site printing.

Get details on barcode scanning, printing, quality and verification, read more here...

Additional Barcode Resources

The History of the Barcode |

How Barcodes Work | Video

Hip Hop World of Barcodes Tells It Like It Is | Video

Barcode Labels | The Make vs. Buy Decision
A guideline to help your organization make the best decision on barcode labels

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