The Barcode: A Useful Tool

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Picture sources
In the good ole U.S. the bar code is rather plain, unlike our neighbors from across the sea, but useful nevertheless.

Bar codes Make Inventory Easier

While working retail I participated in a number of inventories and often thought how miserable this process would have been without the bar code. Could you imagine scanning, listing, tallying without this precious piece of technology? We would tease one another "If you stand still, someone will put a bar code on you and you'll get counted too!" That's how many we would have to count. It would begin to seem that everything was coded! And if you could not get the bar code to scan, you could actually read it to the computer. Reading and inputting the numbers into the computer, that were found across the bottom of the code, would bring up a price and description. Amazing!

Extremely Fast and Reliable

On the left-hand side you will find the manufacturer code and the right the product code. Cash registers and hand helds can whip through a stack of products identifying them extremely fast and tally up a list and total faster than we could call out the names of the products. Computers read the bars and spaces. Humans read the numbers.

How the Bar code was Invented

George J. Laurer is the inventor of the UPC bar code. While working for IBM in 1971 he was assigned the job to come up with a code and symbol suitable for the grocery industry. In 1973 we became acquainted with the bar code, and now we have grown to depend on this technological tool.

The Bar code and 666

A few years ago there was a scare throughout the states. A segment of people thought the bar code was surely related to the mark of the beast. Some were certain the three 6s were included in the codes and the end was near. I am not here to argue pro or con on this issue. Considerable information is provided on this topic. I will provide a link and this quote and leave it up to the reader to decide.

"The bar code opened the door (in fact, it not only opened it, it kicked the door down) to the "digital world". Everything is now a number. Everything gets a bar code. As someone truly said, "If it exists, bar code it". I remember when bar codes first started appearing. I began telling people back then, the bar code was preparing the world for 666: the Mark of the Beast. Was I ever laughed at. . . even by the Christians. I can still remember their laughing and ridicule, "You mean to tell me, everything is getting one of those "marks". You mean, I'll go even to the local "7-Eleven" and they'll have laser scanners and they'll scan these "marks". No way. It would be too obvious what was happening. Everybody would know the mark of the beast is coming""

As if there was not enough controversy surrounding the bar code, my brother-in-law who works in management for a large grocer chain sent me an email regarding determining the origin of our products using the bar code. The numbers go as follows:

  • 00 - 09 … USA & CANADA
  • 30 - 37 … FRANCE
  • 40 - 44 … GERMANY
  • 49 … JAPAN
  • 50 … UK
  • 64.. FINLAND
  • 471 ... TAIWAN
  • 480 ...PHILIPPINES
  • 628 ...SAUDI ARABIA
  • 690 -695...CHINA
  • 740 - 745 ...CENTRAL AMERICA
Check the Codes before Purchasing?

The message suggested that purchasing our products with the code in mind would be a way of helping to ensure employment of those at home. I wondered if this could actually be this simple, so I looked it up at Snopes. Snopes always provides the real scoop.

Where it Was Assigned, Not Originated

Being loyal to one's own country and trying to keep our own neighbors, family and friends employed, we may be tempted to read this believing that we are actually determining the item's origin by reading the bar code. However, Snopes has researched this email and advises us the two or three digit country codes found in the UPC-A bar code or the European Article Number (EAN) actually indicate the country or economic region where a particular code was assigned. They went on to explain that it does NOT necessarily indicate the country of origin.

An example was given of a Mexican company importing product from Guatemala, shipping and selling to the U.S. The final bar code may indicate product from Mexico and not Guatemala.

Another example was given of the 3-digit EAN prefix code of "600" being assigned to South Africa. Although a manufacturer company has headquarters in South Africa the products are manufactured in England and all contain the "600" prefix code.

Snopes said in closing that labels are our best indication of where a product was made. Snopes usually helps me solve the email mystery. Thanks Snopes, and thanks, George (I think)!


Icy BC July 24, 2009 at 7:12 PM  

This is such informative, and helpful article, Judy!

Judy Sheldon-Walker July 24, 2009 at 9:03 PM  

Thanks, Icy. I appreciate your support.

Anne Lyken-Garner July 31, 2009 at 3:17 PM  

Really? They put all that into a simple bar code? Honestly, I didn't think that much of them until now.

I was sure I'd joined this blog before but I can't find my name. I just joined again.

Judy Sheldon-Walker July 31, 2009 at 7:45 PM  

Thanks Anne, I thought you did too but it seems when I play around with my blogs I am always losing something - good thing the head is attached. lol

BTW - yes, they do put all of that into a bar code. I have had to type many a bar code into a computer or cash register when they would not scan.

Take care & God bless!

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