Fun Facts: What You Didn’t Know About Barcodes


Take a moment to think back, when was the last time you pondered over a barcode? I can bet it is most likely when you were standing at the check-out and getting frustrated because there was a problem with the barcode on one of your items. It is true that barcodes really do not attract much attention these days and go largely unnoticed, which is quite a sad fact when you think about the fact that they are actually one of the most important and revolutionary inventions ever.

Barcodes and the technology behind them have played an extraordinary role in the development of the modern business, both big and small, to run and keep track of inventory. Barcodes have an incredibly vital role in enhancing the way corporations capture and transfer data and information, and simultaneously enhance the movement of products through the supply chain.

There is no denying that barcodes make every person’s life a lot easier; they make checking out at the grocery store happen in a matter of minutes, they tell that same grocery store that a certain item is low in stock so that you never have to get frustrated that your favourite item isn’t on the shelves. They even go so far as to tell that store exactly what product fills those cardboard boxes without having to open them that arrive at their delivery point when there could be absolutely anything inside. For such a revolutionary invention for the modern world, it is strange to think that most people barely even take the time to acknowledge their existence let alone know anything about them.

If you happen to be one of those people, never fear. I am here to save you. I have chosen a few of my favourite fun facts about barcodes to share with you. Check them out:

  1. The inventor of the barcode is Joseph Norman Woodland, who was inspired by the Morse code.
  2. A man named Bernard Silver inspired Woodland to invent the barcode. He overheard a food chain executive speaking to the Dean at the university he worked at about the need for technology that could help make the checkout process at his store run smoother.
  3. The first barcode ‘prototype’ was drawn in the sand on a Miami beach.
  4. The first use of barcodes in their modern form was created by an American named David Collins to label railroad cars. The system was called “KarTrak” – this proved unsuccessful.
  5. The initial barcodes were patented in 1952 and looked more like a bullseye than the normal black and white symbology we see today.
  6. The very first successful scanning of the barcode was in Troy Ohio in 1974 and was printed on a pack of Wringley’s chewing gum
  7. Barcodes in their earliest form are called Universal Product Codes, or UPC’s.
  8. Barcodes were initially so unpopular that Business Week magazine ran a article in 1976 titled “The supermarket scanner that failed” because of the 1000 stores that were predicted to be using the barcode scanning system by then – only 50 had actually installed the equipment.
  9. Early barcode scanners were as big as washing machines.
  10. Long ago, light shining through shop windows would sometimes prevent the barcode scanner from working effectively.
  11. The possibility of a barcode error where the information it produces does not the product it is attached to is one in a million.
  12. According to the barcode monitoring centre. At least 5 billion barcodes are scanned each day.
  13. Barcodes in South Africa to track the behaviours of pollinators like bees.
  14. The first product to be scanned in the UK was a box of Melrose 100 Century teabags in 1978.
  15. All barcodes from China start with the number 8 because it is considered to be a lucky number.
  16. The world’s smallest ever scannable barcode was invented by Dr Stephen Buchmann and was used to monitor bees and their mating habits. Each separate line of the code was one thousandth of an inch in width.
  17. The normal 13-digit barcoding system has the ability to create then thousand billion different codes.
  18. A New York based pop artist Bernard Solco immortalised barcodes in art form in his 1998 exhibition when he created 20 two-meter high artworks based on barcodes.
  19. 2 footlong barcodes are used by the United States Army to label boats.
  20. 2 dimensional barcodes were created in 1988 and carry 100 times more information that 1 dimensional barcodes.

So there you have it! 20 top fun facts about barcodes! I bet you didn’t know that something as simple as black and white lines could be so interesting!

If you are a business in South Africa and are looking to get a barcode, check out Barcodes South Africa for more information on barcodes in South Africa and more!

Leave a Reply