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History of Bar Codes

TROY, Ohio - It was only a pack of chewing gum. But its sale over 30 years ago marked the debut of the checkout scanner and the beginning of a revolution, first in retailing and then in other industries.

It was on June 26, 1974, that a 10-pack of Wrigley's was moved across an NCR barcode scanner at Marsh Supermarket in this city of 20,000. It was the first retail use of the technology, and it would mean an end to the days when cashiers' fingers had to fly over register keys to keep store lines moving.

Linda Rozell, general merchandise manager, was there that day.

"It's really hard to believe our little, small store here started the whole thing nationwide," Ms. Rozell said.

Now about 90 percent of U.S. retail chains have scanners, and an estimated 1 million of them are in operation worldwide, according to Tracy Flynn, vice president of food industry marketing for NCR Corp.

The scanner has transformed the world of business and beyond.

The same technology that allows a computer to read a series of bars and numbers and add up a grocery bill also enables a store to track its inventory and the buying habits of customers, providing instant marketing information.

Scanners and bar codes have allowed companies such as Wal-Mart and Federal Express to create distribution systems that have set standards for efficiency and cost-savings within their industries.

They have also made it possible for government agencies, institutions and companies to easily access data banks of information about people. Many states even put bar codes on drivers' licenses to help police obtain information about motorists.

Bar codes also show up on luggage tags, helping airlines get a suitcase to the right destination. They have been used in the Iditarod dogsled race in Alaska to keep track of the dogs on each team. Bar codes are used on ranches as cattle brands. Laboratories use them to make sure patients' results aren't mixed up.

Dayton-based NCR said it picked the store in Troy for the first retail use of the scanner because it was nearby and Marsh was a cooperative customer.

- Web/AP News

Know the code...
Bar codes, or Universal Product Codes, came into use over 30 years ago to help supermarkets speed up their checkout lines and track inventory. Now they can be found on almost any item in a store.  
Click here for a page on bar codes.

Bar Code Symbols:
Click here for more information on various bar code symbols including linear, 2D and more.

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