Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I am not a number. I'm a Barcode...

It is 60yrs since the first patent was filed on what we now call the Barcode. Invented by Bob Silver and Norman Woodland in Philadelphia in the late 40s. It was designed to reduce cashier errors at supermarket checkouts. Initially they used ultraviolet inks but this was too expensive. Woodland had the inspiration for the vertical bars whilst doodling Morse code in the sand. He simply extended the dots and dashes downward.

However, it was not until the 60s that computers and lasers were available to use the technology. By this time they had sold the patent for a small amount in 1952 and Silver had died in a  car crash. A universal system was developed by IBM in 1973 and the first product, a packet of Wrigley's Gum, was scanned in June 1974 in Ohio.

Now the code is everywhere, used by artists, designers and architects as decoration, metaphor for vulgarity and stamp of consumerism. However, its days may be numbered with the advent of pixellated ideograms that can be scanned by mobile devices.

The Barcode a simple, effective piece of design.

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