The modern barcode can be traced back to 1948, when Bernie Silver and Norman Woodland decided that exploring the barcode technology was a worthy endeavor. The first barcode was a derivative of the Morse code, although the barcode made use of lines and spaces instead of dots and dashes. In order to read this code though, a scanner needed to be developed as well.
The first types of barcode scanners are not the same ones we see today. The world's first scanner for barcodes was actually quite rudimentary. In fact, Woodland just adapted the DeForest sound system and used its sensitive tube to identify the light shining on the surface of the film. In the movie industry, the detected light would be turned into sound, but in the case of the first barcodes, this light was converted into numbers.
However, without the help of modern computers, the code could not be read in any direction. As a remedy to this weakness, Woodland converted the barcode lines into circles. This is known as the bulls-eye code today. Because Silver and Woodland believed that their creation had potential, they patented this invention in the late 1949.
Woodland took a job at IBM and he built a prototype scanner in his house using high wattage incandescent light bulb. Although this proved to be effective, it needed to be translated into something workable for the retail environment.
Woodland and Silver approached IBM to help them develop the barcode technology. The company offered to purchase the patent, but the inventors disagreed over the price. They eventually sold it to Philco.
The story of the barcode scanner does not end there, because various technologies have been invented since then. Below are some of the scanner types in use today:
Barcode technologies are still in development. These convenient devices have a short but fascinating history. They also have a promising future.