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.

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.

Answered by: Nick Rennison