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George Laurer, Designer Of The Now-Ubiquitous Bar Code, Dies At 94

George Laurer, Designer Of The Now-Ubiquitous Bar Code, Dies At 94

George Laurer, who designed the bar code that revolutionized merchandise tracking and retailing, has died. He was 94.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Lauer died at his home in Wendell, N.C., near Raleigh, according to his son Craig.

Designed Bar Code At IBM

Laurer was working as an engineer for IBM (NYSE: IBM) in the early 1970s when he came up with the now-ubiquitous vertically-striped design for the bar code to be used by grocery stores for storing prices and tracking products.

The design was accepted by a grocery store consortium in 1973 as the universal standard for the technology, known as the Universal Product Code, or UPC code. Bar codes were used starting the next year; A pack of gum sold at a store in Troy, Ohio was the first to be scanned. UPC codes are now scanned more than 6 billion times a day, according to GS1, the organization that now issues bar codes.

Laurer worked on the vertical bar design with the man credited with having the original idea for tracking items with such a code, IBM's N. Joseph Woodland. But Woodland's initial idea was for a target-like circle, which, it was thought, would be difficult to print and scan.

About Laurer

Laurer, who worked at IBM's Research Triangle Park facility in North Carolina held 25 patents - but didn't hold the patent for the UPC code, which was patented by Woodland and a partner years earlier.

Laurer was born in 1925 in New York City and grew up in Baltimore. He served in the Army during World War II. He retired from IBM in 1987 after a 36-year career there. 

His son said Laurer was suffering from prostate cancer and a heart condition at the time of his death.

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Posted-In: George Laurer Universal Product CodeNews Education Tech General Best of Benzinga


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