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.
Meanwhile … Dilemma 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.