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Bar Code Inventor Dies at 91
  December 17, 2012 

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Bar Codes in Action

The co-inventor of the bar code, Norman Woodland, has died. He was 91.

Woodland, along with Bernard "Bob" Silver, invented the ubiquitous merchandise tracking method while they were engineering graduate students at Philadelphia's Drexel University in the 1940s.

Silver and Woodland came up with the idea after hearing a supermarket official asking the graduate school's dean for help in making grocery counting more efficient. The result, based on Woodland's experience as a Boy Scout, was a design based on Morse code. The two men applied for a patent on their invention in 1949; three years later, they received the patent.

The bar code known worldwide today, however, was a little longer in coming because laser technology for scanning the bar codes most efficiently hadn't been invented. The 1970s brought along the laser scanner, though, and the first bar code took place on June 26, 1974, in Troy, Ohio. The shopper's name was Clyde Dawson. He bought a 10-stick pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum, which at that time cost 67 cents.

In the decades since, the bar code has been embraced around the world as an efficient means of cataloging and tracking the shipment and exchange of people and things from place to place.

Silver, who died in 1963, and Woodland, who also worked on the Manhattan Project, were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2011.



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