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Happy 50th Birthday, Barcodes!

Birthday cake

Almost every day you’ll encounter a barcode of some sort, be it on your food, deliveries, or electronic devices. Yet most people will never truly appreciate how important this invention is in the modern world.

The humble barcode was first brought to life on a beach in Miami in 1949 when Norman Woodland used his finger to draw a variation of Morse code using lines in the sand.

In 1973 the ‘EAN’ barcode we all know today was designed and within a year, in June 1974 a packet of Wrigley’s gum was the very first product in the world to go ‘beep’ at a supermarket checkout in Ohio.

How It All Came Together

Over half a century ago, several industry giants from all sectors came together to introduce a system that would forever transform global commerce.

50 years on and this system has developed to include a number of widely recognised on-pack symbols to inform consumers of product information, while the barcode remains largely unchanged.

Over 10 billion barcodes are scanned around the world each day, which is 1.5 billion more than the number of searches on Google in the same 24 hours!

Will the Barcode be replaced?

In 1994 the 2D QR code was introduced, with the ability to encode significantly more data, such as technical data, web addresses and even recycling information; whilst also being able to be scanned in any orientation. This advancement opened the door to a more versatile and efficient way of barcoding.

Because 2D codes can also be used on everyday smart devices, things like webpages and post-purchase information can be shared directly with the consumer!

Despite the numerous benefits of 2D codes, the original 1D barcode is so widely established that we’re likely to continue seeing it for at least another 20 years, before it’s eventually phased out (if it ever is!).

Want To Know More?

There are so many different barcodes designed for specific industries and applications, that it’s impossible to cover them all with a brief summary.

So we’ve put together our own comprehensive guide to barcoding, covering the different types you can encounter and utilise within your business.

Check out our Guide to 1D and 2D barcodes.