Barcodes: Using Barcodes
2. Using Barcodes
Among the pioneers of the use of barcodes were Bernard Silver and Norman Woodland, who saw the great potential for use of barcodes in the food distribution industry. The first barcode patent was issued to Silver and Woodland (patent number 2,612,994) on October 7, 1952. The IBM Corporation became aware that the idea created by Silver and Woodland had the potential to be used in conjunction with computers in a variety of settings, and so IBM worked on developing barcode technologies that would promote the sales of computing equipment. IBM had the foresight to realize that barcodes did two tasks well: identify an object and allow information about that object to be associated with it quickly. The barcode that appears on an item in a supermarket does not have the price of the item built into the code (since different stores will sell the item at different prices). However, by using an item's identification number in the barcode, a cash register system can associate a store's price for the item stored in a computer system to quickly display an item's cost to the cash register. If there were a product identification system in barcode form, costs for putting price tags on every item sold in a supermarket for the benefit of the checkout clerk could be eliminated. The barcoded product identification system eliminate the cost of putting price tags on every item for the checkout clerk.
The broad use of barcodes had to await the development of a standard that made it worthwhile for retailers to buy and install the equipment for reading the codes and for manufacturers to invest in assigning codes to their products. One pioneer in making this happen was George Laurer, who helped make the universal product code (UPC) possible. Ever since barcodes caught on, they have been coming into wider and more extensive use. Now that portable equipment for reading the codes and in some cases transmitting this information via a wireless network has become possible, even more uses are becoming available. Examples where barcodes are being used include monitoring blood product and plasma packages by blood banks, containerized shipping, attendance of students at schools, identification tags for patients at hospitals, identification on prescription drugs, checkout of books at a library and tracking of airport luggage. Especially ubiquitous use of barcodes is made in the area of mail and packages. All the express package services track packages using the number attached to them which is read via a barcode at different milestones in the progress of their shipments.
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