Norman Joseph Woodland, the co-inventor of the barcode, died on December 8 at age 91. He had been teaching at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia in the late 1940s when his friend, Bernard Silver, told him that Drexel had been asked by a local retailer to develop a system that could identify inventory.
Woodland’s idea was to emulate Morse code’s short and long dashes. He extended the width of each dot and dash, and arranged them in a circular, or “bullseye” pattern. Woodland and Silver patented their idea in 1952. They sold their patent for $15,000 to Philco, who resold it to RCA. Their patent expired in 1969, before it was used commercially. Silver died in the 1960s and Woodland went on to work for and retire from IBM.
The first retail use of a barcode was in 1974.
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