The barcode’s 57th birthday is being celebrated this week all around the web. People really took notice of this event. And why wouldn’t they? From books to food to clothing, barcodes have found their place on just about every manufactured item we consume.
The system was invented by Norman J. Woodland and Bernard Silver, and was later honed by David Collins, as a way to track and catalog items. The barcode is an optical binary encoding system that was designed to be fault tolerant so that it can be scanned from a variety of distances and angles. It’s also designed so that the directionality is never ambiguous, and most barcodes have some kind of check digits or characters to improve accuracy (in Wolfram|Alpha, click “Show details” to see the encoded form and the check characters). First applied as a way to identify railroad cars, barcodes came into wide use after the laser and the computer were more developed.
Wolfram|Alpha can convert text to five different kinds of barcodes: the Universal Product Code (UPC-A), the International Standard Book Number (both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13), Code 128, Code 93, and Code 39. From packing away boxes in storage to labeling banana bread for a bake sale, you can use this Wolfram|Alpha feature to create your own cataloging and labeling system.
To create a barcode in Wolfram|Alpha, simply enter the code type followed by the specifications you would like to encode, such as “code 93 third grade art projects”.
So just what does that bar code above say? Click on it to find out.