3 Fascinating Facts About Barcodes

Juicy Fruit gum was the first item ever to be scanned with a barcodeThe barcode was first put into action at a small grocery store in Ohio over 40 years ago. The first item to be scanned was a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. The barcode has come a long way since then. It has become a ubiquitous element in the world of packaging – so much so that we often take it for granted.

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There is no question barcodes have made our lives a lot easier. They save us time at the grocery store line, make packaging and shipping easier, and has certainly helps made inventory management a lot simpler.  For such an important innovation in our world, most people barely even acknowledge them, let alone know anything about them.

Check out these 3 facts about barcodes and their history.

1. The Inventors
A patent was issued in 1952 to Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland. Woodland conceptualized the standard barcode you know today by visualizing Morse Code dots stretched into lines. He was at the beach that day, and created the first barcode by drawing the lines in the sand.

2. The Payout
Did you know News Corp purchased MySpace for $580 million in 2005? I’m not sure if “buyer’s remorse” would cover that blunder adequately. News Corp wound up selling MySpace seven years later for only $35 million. So, how much did the patent for the barcode go for? $15,000. Woodland and Silver sold the patent to Philco after struggling to come up with a practical way to read the barcode tags. It would be impossible to estimate just how much money the barcode has saved and generated money for companies around the world. But, I’m sure it is more than $15,000. And, I bet it’s worth more than MySpace!

3. The First Store
Bernard Silver was inspired to invent the barcode after he overheard a food chain executive conversing with a dean at the school Silver attended (Drexel University). The executive dreamed of a technology that could streamline the process of checking out items at a store. The store was realized in 1974 in Troy, Ohio. On June 26th, at 8:01 am, in a Marsh Supermarket, the first ever item was scanned at a grocery store. What was the item? A pack of Juicy Fruit gum. The pack of gum and the receipt are now on display at he Smithsonian.

Since that scan in 1974, barcodes have become an integral part of just about every store in the world. And, of course, their applications have gone far beyond the initial idea of scanning items at the checkout line.


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