Introducing UPC Barcodes
UPC barcodes have only been around for a little over 25 years yet it's hard to remember a world without barcodes. Standing for Universal Product Code, they are the most common form used in the UK and America. They've made shopping easier, they've made fundamentalist Christians suspicious and they've made conspiracy theorists nervous. Those little black lines already have their own folklore.
And for all their handiness, anything which increases speed and ease has side-effects. Barcode technology has nurtured shopping malls and supermarkets and they have changed a part of our world, setting a precedent for large-scale computerized identification processes. These have already been utilized for many applications other than simply identifying a product from a shop shelf; scanning passports has become a norm in many airports and all new UK passports are now printed with a their own unique barcode.
UPC Barcodes Decoded and Explained
The Universal Product Code is made up of two sets of numbers - the Manufacturer's Code and the Product Code. Each number in turn is expressed as a series of black and white bars (there are UPC barcode systems for different kinds of goods, too - it's quite complicated). A scanner is swept over it and the information contained in the code is processed by computer. The barcode identifies the product (and can only be read one way by the scanner) but not the price - that's kept on the store's database. The numbers below the bars are for people's benefit, and are not read by the computer.
If you're looking to buy barcode technology, a lot is available over the internet. All you have to do is look for it. Companies like National Barcode (www.nationalbarcode.com) provide scanners (fixed and hand held), label printers, decoders and readers, whole barcode systems from a variety of manufactures (National Barcode also have a newsletter you can sign up for). As with other goods, deals can be available on the internet which you won't find from conventional suppliers. There's advice on this site on what's available and where to get it, as well as more detailed information on how it all actually works.