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.

184 thoughts on “Barcode Challenge

  1. I cheated, I looked comments to decode and I’m pretty sure it’s “ – hacking since 2004”

    Also tried to decode with my smartphone, but seems like 5 mpx isn’t enough for Android’s Barcode Scanner.

    Thanks for the challenge, but Google’s one was bit easier cause of length of barcode.


    I win.

  3. I used an old utility from 1979 called IEBEYEBALL from my IBM mainframe days.

    I looked up the barcode image at on Wikipedia and visually compared the pattern to the different types. Code 128 looked to be the closest so I manually decoded it into:

    Start code B, G, o, o, g, l, e, chksum, stop code

    However, the chksum comes out to 72 for me and the chksum code is ‘g’ which is 71. :(

  4. 211214 Start code B
    122411 h
    121124 a
    141122 c
    241211 k k
    121124 a
    141221 d
    121124 a
    212141 y
    122231 .
    141122 c
    134111 o
    413111 m
    122132 –
    122411 h
    121124 a
    141122 c
    241211 k
    142112 i
    241112 n
    122114 g
    114212 s
    142112 i
    241112 n
    141122 c
    112214 e
    223211 2
    123122 0
    123122 0
    221231 4
    231113 H
    2331112 Stop

  5. – hacking since 2004

    I found it reading other user’s post?


    you gotta say, this is creative?=p

    Why spend energy on something when the harsh job is already done for you ^^

  6. I guess I am a little late to the party, since everyone else has already decoded it. It reads “ – hacking since 2004” I learned barcode as a secondary language when my investment in Klingon didn’t pan out as much as I hoped.

  7. It isnt just machine readable – but the first challange is finding the encoding scheme.
    I admit to cheating here as everyone was posting lower case characters I knew it wasnt code39 or code93 and it doesnt look like a 2in5 code . next on the list was 128.

    I went on and and started to decrypt it by hand.

    first 6 bits, are 211214 or code B. I knew i was on the right lines now.
    122411 is “h”, 121124 is “a” etc etc etc
    there where a few moments where the line widths were lose to call, but generally these values would not be valid characters.

    gives (as everyone else got…) – hacking since 2004H

    but I dont think the H is supposed to be there as I think it is actually the checksum value of 40 (or H)

    so it should be – hacking since 2004

    Yes it took be about an hour to do this, but I feel it was a bit more elegant

  8. I’d assume since you have to have a start bit and a stop bit (and without actually scanning this or using some fancy website), by reading the entries above this post, I’m guessing that it says:

    * – hacking since 2004H*

  9. I copied the picture into GIMP, cropped it so that there was only one row of pixels, containing the barcode, and saved it as a PPM file. Then I wrote a Python script to find the width of the bars. With at a list of bar widths, I looked through Wikipedia until I found that Code 128b had codes that looked like the ones from the image. Using Wikipedia and Openoffice.Org Calc, I made a lookup table. I converted the lookup table into a Python dictionary and wrote a snippet that turned the bar widths into characters using the dictionary.

    The website should have the source.

  10. “ – hacking since 2004”

    1st method: I drew it in my etch-a-sketch and had my 4 year old nephew translate. It took 3 tries and I had to reboot (read: shake-it) several times.

    Actual method: I read the comments and copied off over everyone else’s work. Why should I try and do something that’s already been done for me?

  11. PME Ticket Mismatch – please try again “ since 2004”

    I started out with a micrometer measuring the lines, 5 minutes later I decided that was rediculous, and instead got thrown out of the local grocery store for reaching behind their service desk and scanning it with the barcode reader from a lottery machine.

  12. Hi all!!!

    I just scanned it with my USB Barcode skanner, and it decoded it for me :p

    What it says: + hacking since 2004

    Haha, ithink i have the (by far :p) simpliest solution.

  13. “ – hacking since 2004”

    I printed it, opened up a text editor and then pointed my USB barcode reader (an InPath CCD-300XLR) at it. I see that other folks have mentioned a checksum character, but my barcode reader appears to hide that from me.

    My reader couldn’t read the hackaday barcode directly off my computer screen, but it could read the Google one (which says “Google”, naturally).

  14. “ – hacking since 2004”

    Anyone understand this or just copy pastad some program?

    In case you dont.

    Think of a black line as a 1
    and a white or blank as a 0

    Now hmm…. we go ahead and get the binary out of it and convert it to ascii, and by golly.

    The trick is seeing the tiny ass lines that make up the breaks …

    happy haxin

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