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Learning About Barcode 101

The barcode industry is a complex one. It takes immense time, research and understanding to receive even the most basic level of comprehension. This article will attempt to discuss some facts in easy-to-understand terminology.

Defining the term
A barcode is based on a binary coding system. This system uses a combination of white spaces and different width vertical black lines or bars to store and capture data. The lines and bars can be converted into machine readable language by using an optical scanner.

First commercial success
According to industry information, barcodes became commercially successful when they were used for automating supermarket transactions. Each store product is assigned a unique identifying number known as a UPC code – standing for Universal Product Code. The first documented use occurred in 1973. This transaction involved scanning a pack of Wrigley chewing gum.

Barcode reader
The reader operates by decoding an electrical signal into machine-readable language. For better understanding, the scanner emits light as it goes over the bar code. The dark bars on a bar code absorb the light but do not reflect it. This produces a high-level electrical signal. The light spaces in the code reflect the light. This produces a low-level signal. The duration of a signal determines whether its elements are wide or narrowly based. The reflected light is picked up by a photocell detector in the scanner and then converted into the signal that is finally decoded.

Barcode generator
Firms can generate their own codes. A number of online 2D technology tools exist for this purpose. Users simply input data and the software will generate a one-inch square barcode. Some sites offer users the opportunity to adjust and customize codes to meet formatting and size requirements.

Many industries must comply with the standards set forth by the Industry Standard Organizations. The Global Language of Business (GS1) administers UPC codes.

Includes a quiet zone
Every bar code must include a 1/4” inch space on each side of the code known as a quiet zone. This markings-free area allows the scanner to read the code data. The device will disregard codes that fail to meet this space requirement.

Symbols vary
Symbols found in the code data vary according to country and usage. Codes can be strictly numeric or a combination of numeric and letters. They can have set lengths consisting of 6, 8, 12, or 13 digits.

Origins in 1D technology
Barcodes originally started by using a 1D, or one-dimensional symbology structure. This involves a single role of data. It contained different lengths and widths of parallel white spaces and black bars.

Involves 2D technology
2D, or two-dimensional, technology was implemented to handle increased information requirements. It utilizes smaller spaces to store larger amounts of data. This technology makes it possible for mobile devices to scan over a code and convert embedded data into a readable format. Examples include being directed to websites, receiving store discounts, online sales and in-store specials.

Barcode look-up
Barcodes are stored in databases. Users can go online and input their particular code into a search box. Software will search the database and provide results. Some of the data received from scanning a barcode will reveal the manufacturer’s identification, type of product, manufacturer’s item number and receiving date.

Gaining a basic understanding of this field is crucial for overall business success. Consulting with a trained professional can ease frustration, stress and concerns about this complicated area.

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