• Barcode Ireland Team

21 Fascinating fun facts about barcodes!

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Barcodes - from Art to Amazing.


1. The first product ever to be scanned bearing a UPC barcode was a packet of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum at Marsh’s store in Troy, Ohio, 8:01 June 26 1974. The packet of gum is on view at the Smithsonian museum! Barcodes made their British debut at the Keymarkets superstore, in Spalding, Lincolnshire October 1979. The first item bearing a barcode to be scanned was a box of Melrose teabags. The identity of the shopper and the fate of the barcoded box are unknown.


2. The 13 digit EAN barcode system used around the world can produce ten

thousand billion unique codes!


3. Barcodes can be found in the art world, made famous by New York artist

Bernard Solco. He was the first artist to use barcode symbology as the subject matter of his various artworks, which included 20, two meter high paintings based on the standard barcode image. //www.bernardsolco.com/.


4. www.barcodeart.com has a fun program where you can create a barcode based on yourself. All you need to do is enter your gender, age, country of origin, height and weight and the website will output your own unique barcode based on your statistics!

5. When barcode systems were first introduced to retailers, sunlight shining through storefront windows prevented barcodes from being read. Fortunately barcoding technology has improved exponentially since then!


6. Barcodes aim for at least a 99% accuracy and scanning rate.


7. According to the barcode e-centre the number of barcodes scanned around the world each day is in the order of 5 billion!


8. In her book The New Money System 666 published in 1982, author Mary Stewart Relfe claimed that barcodes secretly encode the number 666, which is the biblical "mark of the beast” in the Book of Revelations. George J. Laurer, developer of the UPC barcode, had to make a public statement addressing the accusation!


9. The Barcode Battler, a hand held game console was released by Epoch in March 1991. The console came with a set of cards that each had a barcode. To play the game, each player swiped a barcode and the console created a character based on that barcode. These "characters" then battled it out against each other. The game was particularly popular in Japan.


10. The world's smallest barcode was developed in the late 1980’s by Dr Stephen Buchmann, an entomologist at the Department of Agriculture’s at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Arizona. Tiny barcodes were attached to bees to monitor their activities. It was the smallest barcode printed at just 25 millimetres by 13 millimetres.


11. The US army uses 2ft (60.96 cm) long barcodes to label 50ft (15.24m) boats which are in storage at its West Point military academy in New York. These huge barcodes store information about the boats and their previous operations.


12. When barcodes were first introduced, wine makers refused to use them on labels as bottles were meant to be "table decoration”!


13. A barcode fashion craze swept Japan in 1997 with more than a million Tokyo high school girls getting temporary tattoos in the shape of a barcode.


14. In August 1994, Poetry Review carried a poem consisting entirely of barcode fragments. Poet Farquharson Cairns claimed it was “machine-readable".


15. In October 1977 MAD magazine carried a giant barcode on its front cover with the message: "Hope this issue jams every computer in the world”.


16. Barcodes printed on newspapers differ from others because they include a digit to represent the day of publication.


17. The first barcode scanners were the size of a washing machine as they contained components that needed to be cooled by water.


18. Initially, the red lasers of barcode scanners prompted concern among unfamiliar shoppers. People associated them with Star Wars and were concerned that they were going to be burned or blinded.


19. Moscow-based artist and self-taught engineer, Dimitry Morozov, released a barcode tattoo scanner that plays sounds upon decoding his 20.32cm by 7.62cm (8 inch by 3 inch) barcode tattoo. Morozov designed the tattoo himself and retrofitted a barcode scanner using a stepper motor and Nintendo Wii remote to guide the sensors along his arm. https://www.wired.com/2014/10/musical-tattoo/


20. Dublin once had its very own Barcode Nightclub! Closed in 2010, the iconic Fairview club was extremely popular for almost all of the 2000’s - famous (or perhaps infamous) for its (amongst other things) 'Flatliner' tabasco shots, swimming pool and Chinese takeaway.


21. Language experts have pointed out the remarkable similarity of a fifth-century Irish alphabet known as Ogham, consisting of a series of horizontal and vertical lines and spaces, to modern day barcodes. (See image above).


Barcodes - both fascinating and fun!


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