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The bar code celebrates its 35th birthday

IMS Photos/Newscom

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Today marks a notable moment in technology: When scanner met bar code.

On June 26, 1974, the simple black-and-white striped bar code design tacked onto a 10-piece pack of Juicy fruit gum, scanned its way into retail history. Since that first scan in a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, bar codes have evolved past the grocery store for various uses in airports, hospitals, and shipping centers.

It's hard to imagine, but before the good ol' bar code made its appearance, grocery store clerks had to ring up every item the old fashioned-way – by manually punching each purchase into a cash register. But slow service at the checkout counter inspired IBM to create a more efficient grocery checkout system that would not only be faster, but enable stores to track inventory. What they came up with was the ubiquitous design you know today: 59 black and white lines that are synonymous with retail stores everywhere.

The luxuries of scanning

Today more than 10 billion Universal Product Codes (UPCs) are scanned in 25 industries, according to Motorola, which bought the company that invented the technology. And bar codes are starting to pop up in new places – on cell phones allowing for easier check-in at the airport or for instant access to discount coupons. Bar codes are even being used for scientific research – some scientists have attached tiny bar codes to bees to track their pollination. Bar codes have also been the muse for some artists including Scott Blake who has built portraits of celebrities Jesus and Marilyn Monroe from bar codes. And did you know the bar code had a brief stint in the video game world? In 1991, the bar code gained recognition among gamers with the release of the game console, "Barcode Battler."

It's pretty neat to see how the bar code has impacted so many different aspects of our daily lives.

Do you have a kinship with the bar code? Tell us here – or on Twitter.


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