No comments | Tuesday, July 02, 2013
One afternoon in 1971, IBM engineer George Laurer confessed to his boss, "I didn't do what you asked." Laurer, who lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA had been instructed to design a code that could be printed on food labels and that would be compatible with the scanners then in development with the scanners then in development for supermarket checkout counters. He was told to model it on the bull's-eye-shaped optical scanning code designed in the 1940s by N. Joseph Woodland. But Laurer saw a problem with the shape. "When you run a circle through a high-speed press, there are parts that are going to get smeared," he says, "so I came up with my own code." His system,  pattern of stripes, would be readable even if it was poorly printed.
This pattern, originally proposed by IBM, won.
It was later modified into the UPC we use today.
That pattern became the basis for the Universal Product Code(UPC), which was adopted by a consortium of grocery companies in 1973, when cashiers were still punching in all prices by hand. Within a decade, the UPC and optical scanners brought supermarkets into the digital age. Now an employee could log a cereal box with a flick of the wrist. "When people find out that I invented the UPC, they think I'm rich," Laurer says. But he received no royalties for this invention, and IBM did not patent it. 
Code contestants-
In the early 1970s, companies competed to design a universal code for products. Here, finalists in the product code judging:
barcode contest

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