Another Digit Added to Bar Code

July 23, 2004 - 10:10

After much debate from the other parts of the world, the United States has finally joined the ranks of globalization. Starting January 1, 2005, the Uniform Code Council has told the United States that retailers will be required to have scanners that can read the new global bar code devised under the European Article Numbering Code, according to The New York Times.

Currently the difference between the U.S. bar code and the European bar code is by one number. The New York Times article written by Steve Lohr on July 12, 2004 stated, “When the Europeans set up their bar code in 1977, patterned after the American standard, they reasonably decided that they needed extra digital space for more products and identifying countries. There were 12 nations in the European community at the time.” The United States and Canada only have 12, unlike most other places in the world that use the 13 digits. However, also according to The New York Times, scanners that will be able to read the 13 digits will be programmed to read the 12 as well.

“The bar code’s globalization is a sign of its triumph over the years. As the identifying code of modern commerce, it has made possible everything from faster checkout service to sophisticated market research. More than five billion bar-coded products worldwide are scanned every day,” said The New York Times article by Lohr.

As far as history goes, the first introduction of the bar code was on June 26, 1974 for a pack of Wrigley’s gum at a grocery store in Ohio, according to The New York Times. The article also stated that many people protested the idea and felt that consumers would be cheated if the price tags were not on each product. There were also job loss concerns for the lack of labor. A select few also felt that the laser from the scanners would cause severe eye damage. After a rocky start, more and more businesses got on the right horse and headed into the technological revolution of scanning.

As far as all of the bodies involved in the transition process, EAN International based in Brussels and the Uniform Code Council in the United States will be combined into one organization, called GS1, next year with the global headquarters based in Brussels.

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