Google has made a habit of changing its logo on its home page to mark important events, holidays, historical dates, history’s most influential people and so on. You can take a look at a collection of such Google Doodles here.
On October 7, Google decided to honour the Invention of the Barcode, which was invented 57 years earlier, with a rather cryptic Google Doodle. As seen below, the infamous Google logo has been replaced with a barcode. The widely used Code-128 barcode symbology was used to create the barcode and reads “Google” when decoded.
The invention of the barcode stems back to 1948. Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, apparently overheard a conversation between the president of a local food chain and a dean at the university. The food chain president had requested the dean to undertake a research project where by a system would be created that could automatically read product information during checkout.
Fascinated, Silver shared this idea with his friend Norman Woodland. Together Silver and Woodland would develop several approaches until they filed a patent on October 20, 1949. The patent application was titled “Classifying Apparatus and Method.” and the invention was described as relating “to the art of article classification…through the medium of identifying patterns”. The patent was eventually granted on October 7, 1952, making it the official birth date of the barcode. Silver and Woodland sold their patent to RCA for a small sum of money that same year.
The barcode was not commercially used until after the creation of the UPC code in 1973, although other forms of barcodes were used as early as 1967. On June 26, 1974, the first commercial product was checked-out using a product barcode. Incidentally, the product scanned was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit.
Today, barcodes are used everywhere and for many different purposes. Google has appropriately recognized the importance of barcode technology and has celebrated it by cleverly branding its name on the Google home page as a barcode.