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Google Celebrates 57 Years of a Great Invention Answered

Google's new picture depicts a barcode saying "Google" to celebrate 57 years of the bar code.

For a brief history from Wikipedia about the barcode;

"In 1932 business student Wallace Flint of Harvard Business School wrote a thesis promoting an "automated grocery store" using punch cards, which customers would hand to a clerk, who would load them into a reader, causing flow racks to deliver the desired products, after which an itemized bill would automatically be produced. In spite of its promise, punch card systems were expensive, and the country was in the midst of the Great Depression, and the idea was never implemented.

In 1948 Bernard Silver (1924 - 1962), a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, overheard the president of a local food chain asking one of the deans to research a system to automatically read product information during checkout. Silver told his friends Norman Joseph Woodland (1921-?) and Jordin Johanson about the request, and the three started working on a variety of systems. Their first working system used ultraviolet ink, but this proved to fade and was fairly expensive.

Convinced that the system was workable with further development, Woodland quit his position at Drexel, moved into his father's apartment in Florida, and continued working on the system. His next inspiration came from Morse code, and he formed his first barcode from sand on the beach when "I just extended the dots and dashes downwards and made narrow lines and wide lines out of them." To read them, he adapted technology from optical soundtracks in movies, using a 500-watt light bulb shining through the paper onto an RCA935 photomultiplier tube (from a movie projector) on the far side. He later decided that the system would work better if it were printed as a circle instead of a line, allowing it to be scanned in any direction.

On 20 October 1949 they filed a patent application for "Classifying Apparatus and Method", in which they described both the linear and bullseye printing patterns, as well as the mechanical and electronic systems needed to read the code. The patent was issued on 7 October 1952 as US Patent 2,612,994. In 1951 Woodland and Johanson moved to IBM and continually tried to interest IBM in developing the system. The company eventually commissioned a report on the idea, which concluded that it was both feasible and interesting, but that processing the resulting information would require equipment that was some time off in the future.

In 1952 Philco purchased their patent, and then sold it to RCA the same year. In 1962 Silver died in a car accident."

Full story about Google's choice of picture here here.

20 Replies

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lemonie (author)2009-10-07

Why 57? I missed the significance?

L

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kelseymh (author)lemonie2009-10-07

In the appropriate journalistic usage, Kryptonite "buried the lead."  The key sentence is in the middle of the fourth paragraph of the Wikipedia article:

The patent was issued on 7 October 1952 as US Patent 2,612,994.
That's 57 years ago today.

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Kryptonite (author)kelseymh2009-10-07

Hmm, I thought it was obvious in the title, "57 years of blah blah" generally means it's been around for 57 years.

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kelseymh (author)Kryptonite2009-10-07

I thought so, too.  Since Lemonie (seemingly) didn't get it, I tried spelling it out for him.  No luck, unfortunately.

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lemonie (author)kelseymh2009-10-08

What is going on here? As I look at this thread Kryponite replied to your comment (above) ~3 hours before you posted it, and you replied to him more than an hour and a half before you posted it?

L

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kelseymh (author)lemonie2009-10-08

That's weird, and not what I'm seeing.  The time stamps are US Pacific time (which is also my local time zone).  Your description makes it seem like the AM/PM markers were messed up when you viewed the thread.

Your original post was "Oct 7, 2009. 12:36 PM".

My reply to you was "Oct 7, 2009. 12:56 PM".

Kryptonite replied to me at "Oct 7, 2009. 9:57 PM".  That's nine hours later, not three hours earlier.

I replied to Kryptonite at "Oct 7, 2009. 10:14 PM", less than 20 minutes later.

Your post here is "Oct 8, 2009. 4:31 AM".

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lemonie (author)kelseymh2009-10-12

Oct 7, 2009. 9:57 PM is not nine hours later than Oct 7, 2009. 12:56 PM, unless the AM/PM is wrong. Could be I suppose.

L

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kelseymh (author)lemonie2009-10-12

Huh?  You've got me all confused, Lemonie.  If I write those two times European style, I get "7 Oct 2009 12h56" for when I replied to you, and "7 Oct 2009 21h57" for Kryptonite's reply.  Now, on the same calendar day, 21h57 is most certainly nine hours (and one minute) later than 12h56.

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Kryptonite (author)kelseymh2009-10-13

it appears you've got a different formatting, I see "Mnth (date), year. hour:minutes AM/PM"

such as Oct 12, 2009. 1:54 PM for your post (the one I'm replying to).

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lemonie (author)kelseymh2009-10-07

Yes, but what is the significance of 57 (outside of Heinz)?

L

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kelseymh (author)lemonie2009-10-07

You stayed up all night reading the Kabbalah, didn't you? The (in)significance is purely arithmetical: 2009 - 1952 = 57.<br />

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lemonie (author)kelseymh2009-10-07

That is not a significance, it's a mathematical product.

L

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kelseymh (author)lemonie2009-10-07

My point (and my parenthetical) exactly.  The fact that it happens to be 57 years ago isn't significant.  The fact that the patent was granted on this day makes it an anniversary.  I'm sure there are lots of other things which also happened on 7 October, but the bar code is just what Google picked.

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lemonie (author)kelseymh2009-10-07

There must be some reason for this, surely Google haven't gone random/derranged on us?<br /><br />L<br />

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Kryptonite (author)lemonie2009-10-07

It's just a modern world we live in.

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Kryptonite (author)kelseymh2009-10-07

You almost make it sound an important age.

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Goodhart (author)lemonie2009-10-07

It is equally as significant as the 56th year, and will be equally as significant next year when it turns 58. :-)<div id="refHTML"> </div>

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ChrysN (author)2009-10-07

I was wondering why there was a barcode on Google.

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kelseymh (author)ChrysN2009-10-07

Put your mouse over it and Google will tell you.  Click on it to find out more.  That is always the case with Doodles.

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Goodhart (author)2009-10-07

Yeah, not many months ago, COBOL turned 50. And it still dominates very much of the Business world's use. It sure is different then when I learned it back in 1982 *<em>sigh</em>*<div id="refHTML"> </div>

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