Barcodes can be found on everything from household goods to medical supplies. The simple collection of lines and numbers is considered by many as one of the most important inventions of the 20th Century.
The system was created by Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. Together they came up with the idea of using Morse Code on a piece of paper. But instead of using dots and dashes, they extended them to form a series of broad and thin lines.
Woodland and Silver later developed a scanner that could read these lines and the barcode was born. Here’s how the invention changed the world.
Image the queue at your local Aldi or Lidl if the shop assistant had to type in each individual item. Barcodes made the process of buying goods much easier and quicker.
The invention of the barcode has also made inventories more accurate. Before barcodes shop keepers had to keep track of stock manually. This process was lengthy and prone to mistakes. As a result, barcodes have saved businesses a lot of money.
A project called the International Barcode of Life is currently taking place. It aims to compile a catalogue of all species of life on earth. It’s possible that in the future we may be able to scan a salmon at the supermarket using our smartphone or dedicated DNA device.
Barcodes are becoming an integral tool for the identification of species and the understanding of the evolution and ecology of biodiversity. Researchers are already using barcodes to track the mating habits of insects such as bees.
The QR code system is considered the grandson of the barcode system since it is based on the same principles. QR codes are placed on clothes, tourist attractions and even magazines and advertisements. They provide consumers with instant data so they can make more informed decisions.
QR codes can also be used to make mobile payments. All you need is a mobile phone with a camera and a mobile app that can scan, store, and share QR codes. This method is currently very popular in China. As we move towards a cashless society it will become more prevalent in Europe too.