Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Memories before barcodes

June 28, 2006

Remember when all sales clerks had to rely on their memory or a tag or a cheat sheet by the side of the register to know the prices of items?

Back in the days when people could charge their purchases, each little sales book had the family name across the top and were slid into shelves where the name would show.

We had an account like that at Campbell's Grocery Store, and my mother would pay once a month. When we paid our bill, Mabel Campbell always gave us kids some candy. At that time there was no interest charged.

The original concept for barcodes started in 1932 before there was technology that would make that system work. It was years later, in 1948, when the president of a grocery store chain asked the dean of the Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, to develop a system that would automatically read product information during checkout.

Bernard Silver, a graduate student at that school, and a friend, Norman Joseph Woodland, worked on the patterns of ink to be scanned by ultraviolet light. After many experiments with ink and ink patterns, they applied for a patent Oct. 7, 1952. The original pattern was in circles that later became vertical lines. Barcodes were not commercialized until 1966. The first barcode scanning system was for a Kroger store in Cincinnati.

The barcode system from that point on spread to many other industries for keeping track of physical assets, inventory and personnel with an automated system to improve operations.

When we started our library in Lansing, we debated about using a card catalog system that had been in use for years at all libraries. I researched information from three companies that had barcode software, and we went with the Follett software that all the local schools used.

A school librarian helped us get started with the system and it works great. Originally it was an Online Service to update new books but now it is updated with CD's several times a year. Now the cataloging and checking out of books is easier because patrons have a barcode and books have a barcode.

If you are new to Lansing, come in and visit our Library and get your barcode and pick up informational brochures about all the activities offered.


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