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What is a bar code?

In 1932 an ambitious project was conducted by a small group of students headed by Wallace Flint at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration. The project proposed that customers select desired merchandise from a catalog by removing corresponding punched cards from the catalog. These punched cards were then handed to a checker who placed the cards into a reader. The system then pulled the merchandise automatically from the storeroom and delivered it to the checkout counter. A complete customer bill was produced and inventory records were updated.

Modern bar code began in 1948. Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, overheard the president of a local food chain asking one of the deans to undertake research to develop a system to automatically read product information during checkout. Silver told his friend Norman Joseph Woodland about the food chain president's request. Woodland was a twenty seven year old graduate student and teacher at Drexel. The problem fascinated Woodland and he began to work on the problem.

Joe Woodland Woodland's first idea used patterns of ink that would glow under ultraviolet light. Woodland and Silver built a device which worked, but the system had problems with ink instability and it was expensive to print the patterns. Woodland was still convinced they had a workable idea. Woodland took some stock market earnings, quit his teaching job at Drexel, and moved to his grandfather's Florida apartment to have more time to work on the problem.

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