History of barcodes in the World
Barcodes originated from the increasing need to create a system to manage retail operations in a more efficient manner. Retailers were getting bigger and bigger and stock control was becoming more and more difficult. They needed a system to make it simpler. In 1952, Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver stepped up to the plate and developed the modern barcode. They based their barcode on morse code, using dots and lines. Woodland created his first barcode from sand on the beach.
Later, in 1959, David Collins became aware of the need to automatically identify railroad cars. He created a system for monitoring and controlling railroad carriages also using blue and red reflective stripes attached to the side of the cars which encoded a six digit company identifier and a four digit car number. He called this system Kar Trak. This is an example of what the Kar Trak system looked like.
Both of these barcodes developed by Woodland and the Kar Trak Barcodes had problems due to the fact that the scanner could not read the barcodes easily if they had any dirt on them. They didn’t have the technology they needed to create the modern day barcode scanner. The whole system was abandoned in 1970s but later in the 1980s a new system emerged which utilised radio tags.
In the beginning, barcodes were scanned by special optical scanners called Barcode Readers. Later technology improved and scanners and interpretative software were used on devices including desktop printers and even smartphones.
As the years progressed, barcodes were improved and transformed into the barcodes we find today. With the development of technology, barcodes scanners were also improved which made the retail process simple and easy for both the supplier and the retailer as well as for the customer.
Barcodes became very widely used to manage retailer checkout systems. Their use has spread to a variety of other tasks such as automatic identification and data capture. The very first Universal Product Code (UPC) was scanned in June 1974 at the Marsh Supermarket in Ohio. It was on a packet of Wrigley Company chewing gum. The packet of gum was bought by Clyde Dawson and the cashier was Sharon Buchanan. It cost 67 cents. This packet of gum and the receipt are now on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington.
In 1966, the National Association of Food Chains (NAFC) got involved in the barcode business. They wanted to develop a system where checkouts at retailers could be automated and controlled. They created a committee which created guidelines for the development of barcodes and assisted in creating a standard approach to implementing barcodes in retailers.
As more and more retailers invested in purchasing the equipment needed to scan the barcodes, these stores benefited greatly. It allowed for more responsiveness to customer needs by revealing which products were in higher demand. Sales increased by 10 – 12 % and the operating costs decreased by 1 -2%. This enabled the retailers to lower their costs and thereby increase their market share. By 1988, 8000 retailers were converting to using barcodes per year.
However, there were people who were against the launch of barcodes. This scepticism mainly came from conspiracy theorists who believed that barcodes were an intrusive surveillance technology. Also, some Christians believed that barcodes hid the number 666 which represents the number of the beast.
Despite these protests, barcodes took the world by storm, and were adopted by more and more storesthroughout the world, as well as in South Africa. In these modern days, you can’t walk into a store without seeing a barcode. Barcodes have come a long way since 1960. They have revolutionised retailers by increasing their efficiency and control over stock, thereby increasing their profit level and generally making the retail business as smooth as possible. Barcodes are now used throughout the world for a huge variety of products ranging from beauty products to gardening tools all the way to groceries.
This is one of the reasons why it is necessary to buy barcodes for any product you want to sell in South Africa. These will be registered with your chosen retailers who can then begin selling your product. By buying barcodes in South Africa, you are becoming part of history.