Remember when bar codes were new and exotic? If so, you might not be as young as you think. The now-ubiquitous Universal Product Code (U.P.C.) celebrated its 35th birthday in June. To celebrate, GS1 US, the U.P.C. administrator in the United States, threw a party with a giant U.P.C.- decorated birthday cake at its Annual U Connect Conference.
The code, which consists of 59 machine-readable bars and 12 digits that identify the item and its manufacturer, was originally designed to speed up grocery checkouts. The first live U.P.C. scan occurred on June 26, 1974, when a cashier at a supermarket in Troy, Ohio, USA scanned a pack of gum. The productivity improvements since then have saved retailers, manufacturers, and consumers billions of dollars. Now adopted by more than 25 industries, U.P.C. codes are scanned more than 10 billion times each day, according to GS1 US.