Barcode challenge


This morning we logged into Google to find a Barcode instead of the normal logo (how strange that Google would change their graphic!). Apparently today is the anniversary of the Barcode. This method of easily labeling items for computer scanning is used for every type of commodity in our society. But do you know how to get the cryptic information back out of the Barcode?

Here’s the challenge:  The image at the top of the post was created by the devious writers here at Hack a Day. Leave us a comment that tells us what the message says and explains how you deciphered it. There are programs that will do this for you and some smartphones can do this from a picture of the code, but we’re looking for the most creative solutions.

The winner will be decided in a totally unfair and biased way and gets their name plastered all over Hack a Day (and possibly slandered a bit).  So get out there and start decoding that machine-readable image.

Update: We’ve announced a winner for this challenge.


  1. JD says:
  2. Gabe Beltran says: – hacking since 2004

    I decoded using an Intermec CK61 Mobile Computer, using a piece of software I wrote using .Net Compact Framework 3.5 and the Intermec Developers Kit.

  3. Túlio F. says:

    hackaday rulez!!1!

    Where is my gift?

  4. AndrewNeo says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″ and I decoded it using my Symbol MC3000 barcode scanner running Windows CE, since my job involves developing an application for them. Not very creative, but it was already on when I read the post!

  5. Aaron says:

    “ – hacking since 2004″
    googled “online barcode decoder -pay -“add to cart” -“free trial” -demo”

  6. John Doe says: – hacking since 2004

    decoded using a beetle2 (computer used in supermarket here in france) and a bluetooth scanner with the debug mode of the program “mona”.

  7. Tomasito says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″.

    I’ve used an online tool to decode it.

  8. RonaldRaygun says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″, I just copied and pasted what the other posters said. (Creative enough?)

  9. Diego Spinola says:

    “ since 2004″

    but, hey… I cheated…

  10. booger says: – hacking since 2004. I cleverly decoded it by reading the first post in the comments section.

    What? Isn’t finding the solution of least resistance, not necessarily playing by the rules, the essence of hacking?

  11. ryan says:

    it says “ – hacking since 2004″ i printed it off and used a barcode scanner to read it

  12. spiffed says:

    “ – hacking since 2004″

    printed to our laserjet 4, then the “bardimm” module picked up on the barcode and added it to the document management system.

    I suppose I could have just used one of the symbol barcode scanners though…

  13. EricZ says: – hacking since 2004

    Because I’m not creative but lazy I google “online barcode decoder” and found ZXING service.
    (url : )

    1st try was “online barcode scanner” but focusing my 5$ webcam on screen didn’t work well, make me miss the first post place !!
    (url :

    Cheers from France !!
    Eric Z.

  14. Ariel says: – hacking since 2004

  15. Mike says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″, I just copied and pasted the other poster who executed this idea before I did.

  16. Oxy says: – hacking since 2004

    asked my electronic comunication teacher from the university i attend, cheap, accurate and a intriguing subject for the EC class today.

  17. Mike says: – hacking since 2004

    Picked up the barcode reader(I scan in a lot of VoIP MACs) on the side of my desk.

  18. vikki says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″, I just copied and pasted the other poster who executed this idea before I did.

    I copy and pasted mikes. one good plagiarizing deserves another

  19. What does the Google logo say? I assume it says Google, and I found a site ( that claims it does in fact say Google… BUT went I ran it through that little online app… Linear Unrecognized (meaning there is nothing there/Google messed up)

  20. mobilediesel says: – hacking since 2004
    decoded using

  21. Commander Data says: – hacking since 2004

    I don’t get it, who can’t read Code39?

  22. Tim says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″. I wrote out the widths of the bars and gaps in binary, which were then processed using the following whitespace program:

    This program converts the cuneiform into a QR code which I had made into a crop circle. I then waited for Google Earth to be updated to include my crop circle. Finally I forced third world world children to manually decode them QR code image at gunpoint.


  23. Tim says:

    Ahem I can’t type.

  24. Mike Szczys says:

    @The Sharpie One: I used the link that mobilediesel posted to decode the Google barcode and it worked.

  25. Pedro Diogo says:

    Anyone else used the good pen and paper method?

    I did, and learnt a bit more about barcode codes!

  26. Khordas says:

    I dug around in my garage for a few minutes and found an old ‘cuecat’ printed out the image and slid the cuecat across it till I got a good read, which took a while. I hunted around in old backup CD’s till I found one with a copy of ‘Skin the Cat’ cuecat decoder, and plugged the data into that. It came out garbled. No points for me.


  27. firetech says:

    @The Sharpie One

    It says Google. It’s CODE123 and I decoded it using a Denso BHT-300BW Handheld Scanner.

  28. firetech says:

    Errr… CODE128 not CODE123

  29. Rmg says:

    I used a ruler! and a piece of paper and a pen!

  30. Joe says:

    I read the image into MATLAB converted it into a one dimensional vector, wrote a simple bar-space length decoder, gave up because I didn’t want to make a huge look up table to convert the bar and space lengths into ascii, and then used the comments to decode it the rest of the way.

  31. firetech says:

    Another great barcode software that can be used on Cell phones (Java ME / Android / iPhone / RIM ) is ZXing… Open Source 1D/2D Barcode Image Processing.

  32. Hal says: – hacking since 2004

    used a unitech plastic usb wand barcode reader

  33. Javi says: – hacking since 2004

    scaled up – printed…

    Separated bars into groups, and disregarded the beginning and ending of the code… Hence other readers picking up an H at the end.
    Once grouped I placed numbers on them, added… then matched the numbers to corresponding letters using an ASCII chart

    I got bored and had finished my homework for Circuits lab….

    This is basic cryptology

  34. James Hunter says:

    The barcode says “ – hacking since 2004″.

    -In order to decode it, I used an old and easy-to-learn chinese technique. The chinese call it “复制粘贴” (Just use google’s tranlator, if you don’t know how to read it).
    It requires someone else who has been fronted with the same problem.
    Now you just have to hope the he already solved the problem and posted his solution to the internet. Because it’s never a good way to trust the word of only one anonymous guy, you have to find a way to verify the solution.
    The smart chinese found a way for this step, too:
    “等着看别人是如何解决这个问题” (you know, …google translator)

    After you completed this step you’ll have easily gained a verified solution for your problem.
    In this case a translated barcode.

    P.S. This technique applies for nearly every problem you could face. Try it out! :)

  35. Lee says:

    It says – hacking since 2004
    Honeywell hand held scanner for scanning apple parts at work

  36. Ryan says: – hacking since 2004

  37. Munden says: – hacking since 2004

    used my recently hacked dolphin 7400 barcode scanner!

    proof –

    They were charging $200 for a stupid “homebase” charger. I noticed the battery inside was marked as 3.7v so I figured that was close enough to 5v USB and I spliced it open and it charged back up just fine.

  38. Mike says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″ I used breakfast burrito and hot sauce along with copy and paste to decode the barcode

  39. Infidellic says:

    Pen and paper, with a lot of bits guessed at when I had enough letters (i.e. “hackaday” and when I got since I looked around t’interweb for the since date as it was faster =^p)

  40. Mark Sand says:

    “ – hacking since 2004″

    I took the mode of the responses to this article. My answer has been reaffirmed by the various techniques used by all the posters.

  41. parkolay says: – hacking since 2004
    using an Intermec CN3, a printer and Excel mobile

  42. Frank says:

    The answer:

    The link isn’t spam. Its a QR code I made and the url was suuuuuper long.

  43. 180190 says:

    It says “ – hacking since 2004″.

    I have an G1 and used the ixMAT Scanner App.

  44. PC says:

    Well, it says what evebody else already said: “ – hacking since 2004″

    I use this website o decode the barcode:

    Congrats gang !!! :)

  45. Tom Levesque says: – hacking since 2004

    I’m home sick with the flu and really bored, so I used:

  46. Khordas says:

    I tried the cuecat on a print of google’s image, and it clearly pops up as ‘google’ with the ‘skin the cat’ software. I think I forgot how hard it it to get a good clean read on a long code with the cat.


  47. Khordas says:

    @ James Hunter

    Clever, as long as you’re dealing with a problem that’s easy to solve. For the truly thorny problems, which this one wasn’t, you’d be high and dry.

  48. Zero says: – hacking since 2004

    First I did a copy image from the context menu, then pasted it into MS Paint, saved it as a monochrome bitmap, uploaded it to my Epson 6000II printer through TMFLogo, printed out a receipt with it set as the header image using a [redacted] then scanned it with a Voyager MS9540 barcode scanner.

  49. Andy says: – hacking since 2004

    I cheated a bit and just scanned the screen directly with one of these:

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