They changed retail forever – barcode inventors honored

Former IBM engineers Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver are among this year’s inductees into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The duo is credited with developing the first optically-scanned bar code after overhearing a conversation in which a food executive expressed a desire to capture more product information at checkout.

The original UPC code was patented, but it expired before becoming commercially available because at the time of its development there were no scanners. The bar code became viable later when another IBM engineer George Lauer built on the work of his predecessors, and the rest is history as the advent of the barcode enables myriad processes and supply chain capabilities throughout the retail industry and beyond.

The induction ceremony is scheduled to take place on May 4 at the historic U.S. Patent Office Building in Washington, D.C.