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Happy 35th birthday to the commercial use of the barcode

Technically speaking, the barcode itself is older than 35, but today (June 26) does mark the day that it was first used commercially, all the way back in 1974 [1].

(FORTUNE Magazine) – As revolutions go, this one ignited with something less than a boom. But that doesn’t mean the events of June 26, 1974, didn’t usher in a transformation. On that day a checkout clerk slid a ten-pack of Juicy Fruit gum over a bar-code scanner at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The cash register automatically displayed the price, and an era was born.

The IBM UPC barcode is everywhere in our lives. As somebody who was not alive before barcodes became ubiquitous, I can’t imagine life without them. The mere thought of a weekly grocery shopping trip without barcodes is the material of nightmares.

My favourite use of the barcode though is in making self-serve checkouts possible. I gravitate toward self-serve checkouts when I’m in a store which has them. I just find the process of dealing with a competent (if slightly naggy) computer to be much more enjoyable than the process of dealing with a checkout operator who wants to argue with me about how many packets of biscuits I’m buying.

Happy birthday to the commercial use of the barcode!

Samuel