UPC Barcodes

All About Barcodes

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,

40 thoughts on “All About Barcodes”

  1. Great Information
    and I do Do all of my barcodes when i go shopping and
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you

    1. Elizabeth StClair,☃️???‍??‍?‍??‍?‍??‍?‍??‍?‍??‍???☃️ Merry Christmas & Best Wishes to you & yours for the New Year & EVERY Year to come.✨

    2. Great news to know the reason for barcodes it also interesting that 6 letters or numbers can hold all that info about a product If only i had a scanner.How to purchase one information would be so helpful mobile app scanning isnt working for me because of cell phone issues.

  2. I enjoy scanning my purchases it’s fun to ,sometimes I forget but I can always go home and sit down with my receipts and also scan if I forget in the store this so convenient I’m in heaven with NCPMOBILE I’m glad I have this app I’m sharing this app every chance I get.Thanks NCPMobile.

  3. I’ve finished my Christmas shopping dor presents and have scanned them. I am giving out cash for most of my adult family members though.

    1. I have done only a few online and store purchases. I am hoping to get everything finished up by Friday. Very interesting information about the founder of the barcode, Mr. Lauer. He is now a part of history.

  4. I was a member of the NCP back in the 1980’s. I would receive a booklet in the mail every week and manually record purchase information including the barcodes for each product. I would then have to get the packet in the mail by the weekly deadline. The NCP mobile app sure saves a LOT of time!

    1. It’s very frustrating that the things that I order on Amazon don’t have barcodes. They have these weird Amazon barcodes with letters and numbers that don’t scan and can’t be manually typed. I order a lot of stuff on Amazon 30 to 60 items per month and all of it goes unscanned it’s such a bummer. I called customer service but they said I can’t count those items because they are not in a category that is recognized by the system

      1. I agree, many of the products made in China don’t have UPC codes. In fact, I’ve noticed several instances lately where instead of the UPC code printed directly on the packaging, they are printing Amazon’s code bypassing the UPC code all together.

        1. NCP used to have a program I installed on my computer that would pull the purchase information from Amazon. I’d get a reminder about it every so often and that worked fine for me. Unfortunately, they aren’t doing this anymore.

  5. We started scanning in the store as we put things in the cart. Game changer, kids love to help…and we can get groceries into the fridge and freezer right away when we get home. Love the mobile app!

  6. With the ever changing technique of scanning barcodes it sometimes is tedious but I have been doing this since 1991 and have seen good changes. It keeps me interested in electronics NCP and Modern Technology. Iam still very happy with NCP

  7. It is unfortunate that so barcodes have letters and numbers and will not scan. I have to enter them as without a barcode.

  8. I scan everything as soon as I get home so I don’t forget. Unfortunately there are still companies out there that don’t use the standard barcodes when we shop. I often buy items that only contain somewhere between 4 to 7 numbered barcodes instead of the usual 12 digits and often these items don’t fall into any of the categories for which we can use the “No barcode” sheet or on the app the reference list of things to use when no barcode is present. This keeps results that you collect for companies a little off. The majority of items I’ve found that are like that are in the crafting category, such as specialty papers, inks and embellishments plus much more.

  9. So many items do not have barcodes that are readable with the NCP scanner.
    I know there is an option of scanner does not read barcode but a lot of the items do not fit the catagories.

  10. I scan what I can but at some stores like TJmaxx and Marshall’s their barcodes don’t scan so if the item doesn’t have an original barcode I can’t scan it. I tried using the no barcode option but there wasn’t a category for soaps, lotions, etc. Maybe a house wears category can be added? However maybe I’m missing something so let me know if I’m doing something wrong.

  11. There are times I’m so tired after shopping, I look from the items to my receipt and back again, sigh, and wonder if it’s worth it. Then I think of how I hope it’s beneficial in the end so you can see what I buy (I’m not typical); that it helps me double check my purchases for errors. It’s still fun after all these years. ?

  12. Thank you for sharing this information I have been curious about how the UPC barcode system actually works. It is amazing how much information a UPC contain about the product it is attached to. We all owe Mr. Laurer a deep debt of gratitude for the development of the scanable digital barcode. Where would we all be without barcodes? We would all be standing in the check-out lines a lot longer waiting for the cashier to manually punch in the price of each item we are purchasing or waiting on the dreaded price check on something that was missing the old school price sticker. My condolences go out to the family & friends of Mr. Laurer.

  13. When purchasing items at Hobby Lobby, I have noticed that not all of their items have bar codes on them. I am wondering why. I purchased some items and then could not scan them to report them to you.

  14. I was wondering when NCP would update to the type of bar code that Amazon uses? I almost feel guilty when I can’t scan the majority of items I buy.

  15. I am a huge fan of NCP and a huge Amazon shopper. The problem is that most of the things that I purchase don’t have traditional bar codes so I am unable to record them because most of the time the items don’t fit into the non barcode catergories. It seems such a shame that all those purchases that we make as a whole are unrecorded.

  16. When I find an illegible bar code on an item that I have purchased and my scanner will not register it by scanning, I go on-line and do a search looking-up the bar code using a Universal Product Code (UPC) bar code search engines. It is very important that all purchases are scanned, but not all bar codes that are printed on products are legible to be read by the NPC Scannner.

    Deepest sympathy to George J. Laurer’s family and colleagues. When I scan I will remember Mr, Laurer’s significant contributions by inventing the bar code.

  17. Why isn’t there a category for lottery tickets. I’m sure I’m not the only one that occasionally purchases lottery tickets.

  18. Ice cream cones I am always buying ice cream but there is no place listed should I use the frozen drink instead? Also, I would like to know why a certain product is not available anymore and if it is not available in the stores should I do a search online to see if I can buy it that way? I can never find Code Red Mtn Dew in the stores where I live. The grocery stores do not carry it, only one Walgreens does yet they only order 24 bottles and one 7-11. Thank you

    1. Central new York. Has code red everywhere!! But just go to the Pepsi website u can order soda right from the company!! I love code red!!

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