Last week when I went grocery shopping, I was so tired from a long day that I just stood there at the checkout and just “checked out” the cashier scan all the items.

I thought about how interesting barcodes are. (I told you I had checked out!) All that information embedded in those lines!

Anyway, in a sad coincidence, I later found out that George J. Laurer, recognized as the “Father” of the UPC barcode, had passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Laurer began working on the scanable digital barcode around 1970 while he was employed at IBM. The very first transaction using the barcode was done in 1974, at a Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, OH. The first product scanned was a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. That pack of gum is now at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

We here at NCP certainly owe Mr. Laurer a deep debt of gratitude for his development of the scanable digital barcode. Where would we be without barcodes?

Now, for those of you who’ve been wondering what a barcode is exactly, a Universal Product Code (UPC) is a set of symbols used to represent letters or numbers. These symbols contain information such as the name of the manufacturer, product description (price, size, color, flavor), inventory quantity, etc.

Barcodes allow businesses to operate more efficiently and accurately, and they are used just about everywhere! Not only do manufacturers and retailers use barcodes, other industries such as healthcare and video stores, to name a few, use bar code technology. UPCs originate with the Uniform Code Council (UCC). The UCC issues the manufacturers and retailers a six-digit manufacturer identification number and provides guidelines on how to use it.

How does the NCPMobile App/scanner pick up the barcodes?
When you pass your Smartphone or the scanner over a barcode, the light beam from the Smartphone or scanner is reflected by the light spaces, but not the dark ones. The app/scanner receives the reflected light and converts it into an electrical signal. This signal can be “decoded” by the app/scanner’s decoder into the characters that the barcode represents. The decoded data is then passed to the computer in a traditional data format.

For the National Consumer Panel, barcodes play a key role. By scanning all of the purchases that have a UPC bar code, you provide important information about your household’s preferences. This in turn allows you to make your opinions count!

Note: I want to personally thank Elaine S., who emailed us information about Mr. Laurer’s passing away.

Remember to scan all those barcodes on your holiday purchases! (Along with your regular purchases, too.)

Thanks and have a great weekend.

Best Regards,
Taylor