The Eloquence of the Barcode

Beep. You hear it every time you buy a product in a retail store. The checkout person slides your purchase over a scanner embedded in their checkout stand, or shoots it with a handheld scanner. The familiar series of bars and spaces on the label is digitized, decoded to digits, and then used as a query to a database of every product that particular store sells. It happens so often that we take it for granted. Modern barcodes have been around for 41 years now. The first product purchased with a barcode was a 10 pack of Juicy Fruit gum, scanned on June 26, 1974 at Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The code scanned that day was UPC-A, the same barcode used today on just about every retail product you can buy.

The history of the barcode is not as cut and dry as one would think. More than one group has been credited with inventing the technology. How does one encode data on a machine, store it on a physical media, then read it at some later date? Punch cards and paper tape have been doing that for centuries. The problem was storing that data without cutting holes in the carrier. The overall issue was common enough that efforts were launched in several different industries.

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Android app scans barcodes, downloads torrents

AndroidAndMe is running a bounty program for Android applications. Users can request a specific application and pledge money to be awarded to the developer who delivers the functional app. [Alec Holmes] just fulfilled the first request by creating Torrent Droid. You can use the app to scan media barcodes and then download the related torrent. It uses the phone’s camera to capture the product’s UPC barcode (similar to Compare Everywhere‘s price lookup) and then searches major torrent sites like The Pirate Bay to find a copy that can be downloaded. After getting the .torrent file, the app can submit it to uTorrent‘s web interface for remote downloading. The app will be released later this month and you can see a screenshot tour of it on Alec’s blog. It’s doubtful that an application like this would ever clear Apple’s App Store approval process.

[via TorrentFreak]