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What is a barcode?

Barcodes are commonly found in an array of products and consumer items, such as greeting cards, electronic devices, and certain groceries. They are an intentional sequence of parallel white and black lines with small numbers that can be scanned. These lines hold valuable and differing data depending on the object in question. The varying widths of the vertical lines and spaces created in between them determine the information that is registered on that specific surface. Barcodes are ubiquitous machine readable labels that have made their way in many aspects of modern life, including driver’s licenses.

Short barcode history

Norman Joseph Woodland and Silver Bernard are credited with the invention of the barcode which was filed on October 20, 1949 as "Classifying Apparatus and Method". On October 7, 1952 the application was granted as patent US2612994A. However, it was not until June 1974 when the first Universal Product Code (UPC) scanner was used on a pack of Wrigley’s gum. Barcodes have since undergone a few changes, thanks to the new possibilities technology offers, but the original use of linear coding is still widely favored for automating supermarket checkout systems. Barcode scanners shine light onto the code to “read” the reflected light with a strip of photoelectric cells that generate a corresponding pattern of on-and-off pulses. Black stripes absorb the light while the white spaces are reflected. This pattern then passes through an electronic circuit that converts the generated sequence into a string of binary digits that can be retrieved from a computer database.

Benefits of barcoding

A barcode can be used for many purposes, including but not limited to the following: quick identification, as part of the purchasing process, keeping track of inventory, and encoding sensitive information. They have expanded into business use as well thanks to their many benefits, especially the ability to encode and decode rapidly. Barcodes are secure and exceedingly cost effective due to the widespread availability of encoding hardware and scanning devices. Barcodes are versatile and can hold the exact data that each individual business requires for their day to day tasks. Diverse algorithms help establish unique barcodes for each business and every merchandise. Barcodes leave minimal room for error while saving a tremendous amount of time. For these reasons alone, barcodes have provided many owners with a hassle-free system of data storage that is simple, easy to learn, and cheap to implement. Employers require no specialized training to learn how to use a barcode scanner. Another reason to use barcodes is having info, be it quantity or quality, of each product instantly available without the use of manual labor or relying on memory. This means that the business will have up-to-date information in real time.

Types of barcodes

There are various types of barcodes to take into account when deciding which is best. All barcodes are subtypes of one-dimensional and two-dimensional barcodes. The focus will be on the following kinds of barcodes: QR code, EAN, Code 39, Data Matrix, and Code 128.

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