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Barcode History

The last 30-40 years have seen phenomenal growth in the use of barcodes. We are all familiar with the use of bar codes in retail stores, but that is only one very visible aspect to the world of automatic identification.

The wider use of computers in business has increased the demand for and usefulness of data. Data of all kinds is transmitted day and night between companies, from the stock levels and re-order requirements of the neighbourhood supermarket to the movement of vast sums between the world money markets.

With this data explosion came the need for fast, automated data input. Barcodes provided this. Within a fraction of a second the sophisticated equipment on a supermarket checkout can read a barcode from a grocery item, decode it into an article number, look up that number on the main computer, and record the price and item title on the till receipt. At the same time the main computer logs the decrease in stock and when it has fallen to a pre-determined level, sends an electronic message to the main warehouse. The same computer network carries the automatic re-order information to the individual suppliers and so on down the chain of supply.

Everyone is now familiar with the standard UPC and EAN barcodes that are used at checkouts to lookup the product and it's price, but now, other barcode types are beginning to appear on retail products. Datamatrix and QR codes are "2-dimensional" codes composed of blocks rather than lines. They, along with other barcode types like GS1-Databar abd GS1-128 are being used to encode supplementary information such as batch, best before date or even marketing informatuion in the case of QR codes.

The barcode image is an ideal way of automatically identifying an article. Unlike magnetic stripes or radio frequency tags it is cheap to produce, requiring only ink and paper. It can be read quickly and in any orientation by a relatively inexpensive machine. All that is needed is an accurate and reliable way of producing the bar code image.


The aim of this guide is to explain some of the basics of bar coding, particularly in relation to our software, to show the opportunities and to warn of the pitfalls. We hope to welcome you to the world of bar coding and our growing user-base. Within this guide you will find pages detailing the use of barcodes, their construction and how to ensure the best quality barcodes when you design or print for packaging or publishing. There are also pages devoted to individual barcode types such as EAN and UPC, QR Codes, Datamatrix and GS1-Databar.











Bar Code Uses

Bar Code Structures

Getting a Good Scan

PostScript Imaging of Bar Codes

Quality Checking




Code 128

Code 39

ITF (Interleaved 2 of 5 )




Glossary of Bar Code Terms

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