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Co-Creator Of The Barcode Dies

Posted December 14, 2012

The co-inventor of one of the most indispensable technologies of the 20th century that labels every retail product, the barcode, has died. The death of Norman Joseph Woodland, who was 91, was confirmed by his daughter, Susan Woodland. She said he died on Sunday in Edgewater, New Jersey, from the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and complications of advanced age.

Mr Woodland and Robert Silver were students at Philadelphia’s Drexel University when Mr Silver overheard a grocery store executive asking an administrator to support research on how product information could be captured at checkouts. The pair earned a patent in 1951 with Mr Woodland’s idea to create a shape of concentric circles. The technology did not catch on until the 1970s, when Mr Woodland’s employer IBM promoted a rectangular barcode that was adopted as the standard.

The barcode may have come from a humble beginning but has become the de facto means of tracking any kind of product or process today. Woodland’s innovation and contribution to the technology was crucial to improving businesses around the globe.