Humanities › History & Culture The History and Use of Bar Codes Share Flipboard Email Print Jeffrey Coolidge/ The image Bank/ Getty Images History & Culture Inventions Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Invention Timelines Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered inventions and inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years. She is known for her independent films and documentaries, including one about Alexander Graham Bell. our editorial process Mary Bellis Updated March 24, 2019 What is a bar code? It is a method of automatic identification and data collection. History of Bar Codes The first patent for a bar code type product (US Patent #2,612,994) was issued to inventors Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver on October 7, 1952. The Woodland and Silver bar code can be described as a "bull's eye" symbol, made up of a series of concentric circles. In 1948, Bernard Silver was a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia. A local food chain store owner had made an inquiry to the Drexel Institute asking about research into a method of automatically reading product information during checkout. Bernard Silver joined together with fellow graduate student Norman Joseph Woodland to work on a solution. Woodland's first idea was to use ultraviolet light sensitive ink. The team built a working prototype but decided that the system was too unstable and expensive. They went back to the drawing board. On October 20, 1949, Woodland and Silver filed their patent application for the "Classifying Apparatus and Method", describing their invention as "article classification...through the medium of identifying patterns". Commercial Use of Bar Codes Bar code was first used commercially in 1966, however, it was soon realized that there would have to be some sort of industry standard set. By 1970, the Universal Grocery Products Identification Code or UGPIC was written by a company called Logicon Inc. The first company to produce bar code equipment for retail trade use (using UGPIC) was the American company Monarch Marking in 1970, and for industrial use, the British company Plessey Telecommunications was also first in 1970. UGPIC evolved into the U.P.C. symbol set or Universal Product Code, which is still used in the United States. George J. Laurer is considered the inventor of U.P.C. or Uniform Product Code, which was invented in 1973. In June of 1974, the first U.P.C. scanner was installed at a Marsh's supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The first product to have a bar code included was a packet of Wrigley's Gum.