Why Barcodes Are Used…

By Erik Quisling

 

One of the most common questions I get asked by new customers has to do with why barcodes are used in the first place?

 

The simple answer is sanity.  Before the advent of the UPC barcode system in the early 1970s, stores only had one way of keeping track of their inventory.  Every day they had to go into their store and manually count the products on their shelves to see what was getting low and needed to be re-ordered.  This was a tedious process and no doubt the bane of every store owner’s existence.  It literally drove them insane.  But as computers slowly became cheaper and more powerful by the end of the 1960s, more advanced techniques were devised to make the process of inventory tracking more efficient. This led to the first barcode system being created.

 

Originally created by scientists Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1951, the barcode was a simple way of converting a number into a black line of a specific width (much like a visual form of Morse Code).  Then, in the late 1960s, telephone giant GTE figured out a way to create a computer scanner that could read the barcode and translate it into the number it was meant to represent.

 

For several years, barcoding slowly rose in popularity as stores began using this new barcode system.  In general, every store would create a unique barcode number for every new product they sold, and they would keep a record of how many of that particular product they had in stock.  As each product was sold, their computer would scan the barcode at the register and subtract one from their available inventory.  When inventory decreased to a certain point, the store owner would be given a notification that it was time to re-order that product.

 

While this new barcode system was definitely more efficient than doing daily manual shelf counts, there were still several ways to make the process of inventory control much better.  This is when the Uniform Code Council (also known as the UCC) came into existence.

 

Created in 1973, the UCC was formed by a consortium of large grocery store chains.  They decided it would be most efficient if all barcode numbers assigned to products came from a single source.  This way all of the stores would no longer need to create their own internal barcode numbering system.  Their vendors could simply purchase barcodes directly from the UCC and the same number could be used at every store in the world.  This new barcode number would be known as the UPC barcode (Universal Product Code).

 

Because these powerful grocery store chains all agreed to use the new UPC Barcode system, it quickly spread as more and more stores around the world adopted the methodology.  Unfortunately, however, the process of simply buying a UPC barcode soon became extremely expensive due to the monopoly that the UCC (now known as GS1) maintained and they only sold UPC barcodes in very large quantities.  Thankfully, in 1999, Buyabarcode.com was founded and became the first official competitor to GS1.  By purchasing UPC barcodes in huge blocks directly from GS1, Buyabarcode.com simply began selling off the UPC barcodes one at a time or in small quantities and at very low prices.  This made the process of getting a barcode extremely quick, easy, and cost effective.

 

It is truly amazing that the UPC barcode system created a half century ago continues to be the most efficient way of tracking a store’s inventory.  Today, the system of purchasing GS1-originated UPC barcodes is required to do business anywhere on the globe. Fortunately, Buyabarcode.com continues to be the world’s largest and most trusted source to purchase legitimate GS!-originated UPC barcodes in a quick, easy, and inexpensive manner. 

– Erik Quisling

Erik Quisling is the Founder and CEO of Buyabarcode.com. Started in 1999, Buyabarcode.com has been featured in both The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post and has helped more than 100,000 businesses bring their products to market with barcodes.