Quick Query

When were the first barcodes used?

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In the late 1940s, two American engineers called Silver and Woodland developed a system to read product information, and a patent was issued to them in 1952. Other systems were created over the next two decades but they were used almost exclusively in factory inventories – General Motors, for instance, adopted a barcode system to identify types of car axle.

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It was only in the 1970s that barcodes were developed for use in retail. In 1974, NCR (National Cash Register) introduced them into a store in Ohio for a trial period. The first item to be scanned was a ten-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC now displays the wrapper and receipt.

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Answered by: Nick Rennison