A very merry birthday, indeed: The UPC barcode turns 40

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It’s an important day in barcode history.  Today, the UPC barcode celebrates its 40th birthday. UPC, or the Universal Product Code, was one of the earliest types of barcodes ever created, and it changed the future of barcodes forever.

The UPC barcode got its early beginnings in 1974, where it was printed on a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum and scanned for the first time, at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio. Since then it has become quite popular, to say the least. Today, it is currently printed on virtually every consumer product around the globe: food, electronics, medicine and even engine parts. The UPC may officially be “over the hill”, but we don’t expect it to die off anytime soon. It’s been around the block once or twice, and has since grown up and made a name for itself. In fact, it inspired a whole revolution of barcodes to come.

The UPC was the barcode that started it all. Yes, there were some other barcodes before it, but the UPC is very much responsible for the success and evolution of the modern day barcode. As it took off, and barcodes became more prevalent on grocery products, they began to pop up in other industries as well. Today, the barcode has adapted to become used in the manufacturing, logistics, retail, automotive, government and healthcare industries for a variety of professional purposes. From product identification to parts tracking, the barcode is used just about everywhere.

Not only does the UPC have a long history, but it also has an interesting one. There are a few little known facts about that weird black and white symbol on all of your products. All jokes aside, the creator of the UPC barcode, George J. Laurer, had to make a public statement addressing the claims that the guard bars on UPC’s are a code for “666”. Guard bars are bit-containing patterns at the beginning, middle, and end of each UPC code, which resemble the coding for the number 6. Laurer has responded to these claims on his website by saying “there is nothing sinister about this nor does it have anything to do with the Bible’s ‘mark of the beast.’ It is simply a coincidence like the fact that my first, middle, and last name all have 6 letters.” However, despite the strange symbology and coincidences with George’s name, our research suggests that the UPC code isn’t a tribute to Satan.

As we celebrate the UPC’s birthday today, let’s not forget how important and interesting its history has been. Barcodes have become a universal part of our lives, and we have the UPC code to thank for their popularity. They have inspired and helped many people over the years. So, let’s all appreciate the UPC code today for the revolutionary that it was. And if you’re really excited to celebrate, you can download the Scandit Demo App and scan a few of them for yourself.



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