, author: Ermakova M.

Barcode Turns 50: A Trade Revolution

Half a century ago, the barcode was born, which today is read 6 billion times every day.

Half a century ago, 16 mass consumers made a decision in New York that marked the beginning of a revolution in world trade - the development of a code for identifying goods. Thus was born the barcode, which today is read 6 billion times every day. This proposal, based on the idea of Morse code, quickly spread around the world and became one of the inventions that have changed the modern economy the most, according to the BBC rankings.

Chewing gum in America

It took a year to get the first practical application: Sharon Buchanan, a supermarket clerk in Ohio (USA), scanned the barcode for the first time on a package of chewing gum worth 67 cents.

The idea crossed the Atlantic very quickly, and just three years later the European Article Numbering Association (EAN), a non-profit commercial standards management organization, was founded in Brussels.

Today GS1 is an international organization responsible for the standardization of accounting and bar coding of logistics units.

The barcode has changed the economy and the lives of consumers themselves, who need more product information and companies need more data to be more efficient and more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. The barcode for this is a great tool.

6 billion reads per day

Barcodes - there are several types - serve to identify, collect and share information about products, locations, companies and all kinds of data.

Reading it has become a daily routine, repeated up to 6 billion times a day, as the barcode is on the packaging of billions of products around the world and is used by two million companies.

How to read a barcode

It is difficult for the consumer to interpret the numbers and lines that make up the code that conveys all this information if it is read with a laser.

The numbers at first glance do not carry any information and have no meaning, they are the “equivalent of a person's identity”, since the value of the code is the information contained in its database.

In a typical 13 digit barcode, its reading can be divided into three sections, the first of which is for identifying the GS1 organization that assigned it to you and the company that requested it.

The following digits serve as the counter of references registered by companies, and finally the check digit is the result of a calculation that allows the products to be uniquely identified.

Barcodes simply contain numeric information using symbols, allowing it to be read by scanners.

In what direction is it developing?

Half a century later, this code, developed by IBM engineer George J. Laurer, has evolved along two main lines.

First, the development of more differentiated line codes for use in warehouses or for logistics purposes. And secondly, the codes are expanding in two dimensions, with the development of several more for medicines and tobacco, as well as the open QR code, which is intended to be the future of the barcode at the point of sale, because, being URL-encoded with standardized information (GS1 Digital Link) allows you to enter all kinds of information.

The barcode is thriving in a globalized and digitized world where information, data and communication are the lifeblood that flows through the economy and global trade.