Bar code’s co-inventor dies at 91

A couple of weeks ago, NPR reported that N. Joseph Woodland, a co-inventor of the bar code passed away at the age of 91. I found this to be a very interesting story. First, because the bar code was really so far ahead of its time.

The original patent was applied for in 1949, and issued in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first bar code was actually scanned. It took that much time for the scanner and computer technology to be developed enough to actually read and process the bar code. This was long after Woodland and his co-inventor, Bernard Silver, sold the patent for $15,000.

The second reason is its connection to Morse Code. The story reads,

The only code Woodland knew was the Morse Code he’d learned in the Boy Scouts, his daughter said. One day, he drew Morse dots and dashes as he sat on the beach and absent-mindedly left his fingers in the sand where they traced a series of parallel lines.

“It was a moment of inspiration. He said, ‘instead of dots and dashes I can have thick and thin bars,’” Susan Woodland [his daughter] said.

Woodland’s¬†New York Times¬†obituary has more on this story.

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