Thank A-Bombs, muzak and Linda Lovelace for quick checkout

This must be one of the more strange evolutions of an idea in capitalist history …

George Laurer, Who Developed the Bar Code, Is Dead at 94.

George J. Laurer, whose design of the vertically striped bar code sped supermarket checkout lines, parcel deliveries and assembly lines and even transformed human beings, including airline passengers and hospital patients, into traceable inventory items, died on Dec. 5 at his home in Wendell, N.C., near Raleigh. He was 94 …

The Universal Product Code made its official debut in 1974, when a scanner registered 67 cents for a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio …

The bar code had evolved over several decades, a product of several collaborators and some fluky coincidences.

The first to lend his expertise was N. Joseph Woodland, an alumnus of the Manhattan Project, developer of the atomic bomb. As an undergraduate at what is now Drexel University in Philadelphia, he had perfected an efficient system for playing music in elevators and planned to market it commercially until his father intervened, insisting that the elevator music industry was controlled by organized crime.

Mr. Woodland was earning a master’s degree at Drexel in the late 1940s when a supermarket executive visiting the university’s engineering school urged students there to develop a practical means of digitally storing product data. With a classmate, Bernard Silver, Mr. Woodland devised a circular symbol resembling a bull’s-eye in which the information could be encoded. But they were ahead of their time: Commercial scanners and microprocessors that could interpret the code were not yet widely available.

In 1951, after abandoning a planned career as a television repairman, Mr. Laurer joined IBM, where he was asked to design a code for food labels modeled on the Woodland-Silver bull’s-eye and compatible with a new generation of optical scanners. But he found that the circular symbol was too blurry when reproduced on high-speed printing presses; instead he developed a rectangular design, with 95 bits of data in binary code containing consumer product information.

Enter Alan L. Haberman, a supermarket executive who headed the Uniform Grocery Product Code Council, which had been organized to choose a universal product code symbol. He favored Mr. Laurer’s design, but the members of his committee were split.

Mr. Haberman reconciled their differences over dinner at a San Francisco restaurant and then invited them to a screening of the X-rated film “Deep Throat.” In April 1973, the committee unanimously voted for the bar code that has appeared on billions of items since.

MeanwhileDilemma for clock face as smartphone generation loses ability to tell the time.

Time is ticking for the traditional clock face as the smartphone generation loses the ability to tell the time.

More than a fifth of 18 to 24-year-olds struggle to understand a conventional clock with hands and only half of this age group, known as Generation Z, say that they never struggle to tell the time.

Millennials, who reached adulthood in the early part of this century, do little better: nearly one in five 25 to 34-year-olds admits that they also have difficulty with the big and little hands.

 

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21 Responses to Thank A-Bombs, muzak and Linda Lovelace for quick checkout

  1. Mother Lode

    BAR CODE!

    Heh heh! Heh!

  2. NuThink

    What about the problem of ClockWise (CW) and CounterClockWise (CCW)?

  3. MACK

    And these people get to vote?

  4. NuThink

    Will the modern persons who cannot add (re Sinc’s post earlier this week) say eight forty and never twenty to nine? So if one has to be at a meeting at 9:00 AM and the digital clock says it is 8:47 AM does the person without the ability to add and subtract have any idea how much time that they have to get to the meeting. So if all clocks are digital and no one can add or subtract in their heads then I see a potential for problems.
    Sometimes simplicity of a simple analog clockface is better.

  5. Shejustlaughs

    1. What’s with the false equivalence between being able to read an analogue clockface and inventing the barcode?

    2. Can you create and read a sundial? If not, who cares? Analogue is dead. Long live digital!

    3. Ok boomer.

  6. Sam Duncan

    “Analogue is dead. Long live digital!”

    Heh. You sound like me in the ’80s. I’m sure I said those exact words. There’s always something… adorable about people with no experience lecturing the grown-ups about how the world works. It’s like listening to toddlers talk about Where Babies Come From.

  7. Arky

    It isn’t just the time.
    The poor bastards can’t navigate without GPS.
    They can’t change a tire.
    Or spark plugs.
    Or orgasm without looking at weirdo strangers rooting on a screen.

  8. Cold-Hands

    What about the problem of ClockWise (CW) and CounterClockWise (CCW)?

    Deosil or widdershins?

  9. rugbyskier

    I’ve heard that the Royal Norwegian Navy is going to introduce a barcode paint scheme for its ships, so that when they return to port it can scan da navy in (boom, tish).

  10. sfw

    In my daughters year 12 class (but not her) around half of the students either can’t read analog time at all or have to study the clockface and slowly work it out. If you don’t use it or do it you lose it.

  11. Mundi

    Yeah this is more of a skill that isn’t continually used anymore.
    Kids in grade 1 and 2 are taught to read a clock, but they tend to just forget because there are no analog clocks left anywhere.

  12. cohenite

    My eye was caught by Linda Lovelace; The poor thing is dead now, a sad icon of the liberated, swinging 1970s and 80s.

  13. lotocoti

    After decades of dealing with frames, seconds, minutes and hours, there’s always that millisecond of confusion when the petrol bowser doesn’t switch from 49.59 to 50.00.
    Also, the ATO won’t let you claim on an analogue watch to guard against analogue blindness.

  14. Mother Lode

    My eye was caught by Linda Lovelace

    More impressive for how she changed her life afterward. Returned to Christianity and became a leading figure in the anti-pr0n movement.

    She said she was coerced into her pr0n career by her (at the time) husband. I don’t believe this was ever tested in court.

    If she was a willing participant she became The Prodigal Daughter. That would be the least accolade to which she would have been entitled. If she had willingly partaken of that life until she realised how degrading it was, engineered her own escape and then laid bare her own life for the world to see so as to spare others a similar fate, then more hero her.

    In the latter case she would have earned the enmity of her friends from her earlier life without being assured that she would have been accepted by people who had until then sneered at and despised her as a pr0n star.

    She lived out her years fighting for a cause that went to her soul. Not a bad end that.

  15. She said she was coerced into her pr0n career by her (at the time) husband.

    She did not want to be accountable.

  16. C.L.

    She lived out her years fighting for a cause that went to her soul. Not a bad end that.

    Indeed. God bless Linda.

  17. Roger

    Will the modern persons who cannot add (re Sinc’s post earlier this week) say eight forty and never twenty to nine? So if one has to be at a meeting at 9:00 AM and the digital clock says it is 8:47 AM does the person without the ability to add and subtract have any idea how much time that they have to get to the meeting.

    I believe there’s an app that does it for them.

  18. Rohan

    Millennials need to stop chowing down on Tide Pods.

  19. Rohan

    Wrong fred. My ipad is a progressive whos a bit miffed.

  20. NuThink

    but they tend to just forget because there are no analog clocks left anywhere.

    Tell that to the local jeweller and to Rolex, Seiko, Omega Watch, Swatch and Bulova, or just do Google searches for each and see what comes up.

    So has Big Ben been digitized yet?

    Have all car speedometers and rev counters been digitized yet?

    Actually the world is generally analogue, and is converted to digital using ADCs (Analog to Digital Converters) for processing by a digital computer or microcontroller.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog-to-digital_converter

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