Thursday, July 05, 2018

bar codes, and QR codes, both originated in the transportation industry for tracking vehicles

Drexel graduate students Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver patented the barcode in 1952, but their invention wasn’t fully realized until the 1960s, with the birth of the KarTrak system, (above) implemented by the railroad industry to track the contents of individual railcars.

Barcodes were then commercially popularized with the birth of the Unique Product Code, or UPC, in the 1970s as a way of automating cashiers’ labor, ostensibly saving time while preventing the carpel tunnel-inducing repetitive motions of manually entering numbers.

In 1994, a Japanese subsidiary of Toyota called Denso Wave released the “quick response” or QR code, allowing more information to become embedded into objects.

While they were originally created for use in the Japanese auto industry, in order to track motor vehicles during the manufacturing process, QR codes are now embedded in everything from wedding invitations to subway billboards.


  1. A buddy's wife in Dallas spends her days on the computer tracking railroad cars by bar codes and notifying the owners where the cars are and who is using them so the owner can collect rent.

    1. dang... a work from home job? And I wonder who is outside in Texas, in the heat, scanning them

    2. In the late 1960's (when I was in college) I has a summer job finding railroad cars in freight yards in Chicago. The RR gave you a printed sheet with the car numbers of 600 to 800 cars that the RR had "lost". By wandering up and down the tracks and reading the numbers off the cars, you tried to remember the numbers and match them with the sheet. As I recall, the RR got about $100 a day for cars that did not belong to them that were (in effect) renting their tracks. They paid $25 for finding one. A really good day paid $75 to $150.

    3. that is easy good money! Imagine having a motor cycle that could scoot you around through the rough terrain!

  2. New ones are all GPS.