All posts tagged: 12-digit UPC code

The Last Days of the Barcode

The Last Days of the Barcode

Once upon a time, a restless cashier would eye each and every item you, the consumer, purchased and key it into the register. This took skill but also time—and proved to be an imperfect way to keep track of inventory. Then one day, a group of grocery executives and inventors came up with a better way: what we now know as the barcode, a rectangle that marks items ranging from insulin to Doritos. It’s so ubiquitous and long lived that it’s become invisible. In this episode of Radio Atlantic, editor Saahil Desai gives an early obituary to a monumental and fading technology. Desai walks us through the surprising history of the barcode, from its origins in the grocery business to Walmart and Amazon (with a detour to the movie Deep Throat). The barcode allowed grocers to stock infinite varieties of everything, which led us to expect infinite varieties of everything and made us the highly demanding and sometimes addicted shoppers we are today. We talk about the barcode and the technology that is about to …