15 Dec 2012

Death of bar code co-inventor

6:55 am on 15 December 2012

The co-inventor of the bar code has died in the United States.

Norman Woodland, 91, died on Saturday from complications related to Alzheimer's disease in Edgewater, New Jersey, said Susan Woodland of New York.

Five billion products per day are scanned optically using the bar code, (Universal Product Code), which is also in almost universal use across transportation, industrial and shipping industries worldwide.

Susan Woodland said her father and co-inventor Bernard "Bob" Silver were graduate students at an engineering school in Philadelphia when they devised the idea.

They applied for the first bar code patent in 1949. Mr Woodland joined International Business Machines Corp in 1951 and he and Silver received the patent in 1952.

In a statement, IBM said laser technology not advance to the point where it could be applied to the bar code more than two decades later.

Mr Silver died in 1963, according to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, which inducted the two in 2011.

According to IBM, the first bar code scan took place on 26 June, 1974, in Troy, Ohio, when a cashier scanned a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit gum for a shopper. Cost: 67 cents.

Ms Woodland said her father was enthusiastic about perfecting the technology he had invented.

"He was involved in with the whole design of the (supermarket checkout} station - from how the person stood and how high the laser stood to how to protect peoples' eyes from the lasers," she said. "He was totally a perfectionist."

Mr Woodland also served as an historian on the Manhattan Project, the US effort to build the first atomic bomb.