The first product to have a barcode was a package of Wrigley’s chewing gum. The barcode was produced in 1974 and scanned at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio. This marked the beginning of a retail revolution and changed how consumers shopped for goods and services.
The idea for having a barcode on products originated with Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, two graduate students studying engineering at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While researching ways to improve grocery store checkout lines, they developed an innovative solution: a recognizable pattern on items that an electronic device could quickly read. The result is known today as the Universal Product Code (UPC).
Woodland and Silver applied for a patent for their invention in October 1949. Initially, their design consisted of circular patterns of concentric circles divided into four sections; however, it wasn’t until 1952 that they added parallel lines to form what we now recognize as bars on product labels. After much trial and error, the UPC was refined over several years until it became standardized across all industries and products worldwide in 1973.
It took another year—until 1974—for Wrigley’s to become the first product to be coded with this new technology. On June 26th of that year, cashier Sharon Buchanan successfully scanned a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio—marking an important milestone in retail history.
The impact of Woodland and Silver’s invention has been far-reaching not only through retail but also through other industries such as healthcare, where barcodes are used to identify patients’ prescriptions and allow them to be tracked throughout their journey from prescription order to administration or delivery. In addition, barcodes provide convenience when traveling by plane; boarding passes can now be printed out with each passenger’s specific barcode, saving time when checking in at airports worldwide.
Today there are many types of barcodes available depending on needs such as size limitations or data capacity – from 1D linear codes such as UPCs used primarily for consumer marketing purposes to more complex 2D matrix codes used for tracking automotive parts during production processes or even 3D tags which can capture several layers depth information about objects under special lighting conditions making them useful for applications such as object tracking within warehouses or museums collections management among others.
In conclusion, although Woodland & Silver may have had no idea that their invention would impact our lives today, we owe them thanks because, without them, our shopping trips would take much longer or involve much more paperwork! As technology continues to advance, so do our expectations around shopping convenience–making us grateful every time we can scan an item while standing at checkout!
Please read our article about how to find out where an item was purchased by the barcode.