History of Technology: Joseph Woodland
The bar codes are something found in virtually any product we buy or consume, in fact, this method of encoding information (that is implanted worldwide) is used in areas other consumer products and for example, we find them to identify patients of a hospital or dial a waste container without opening it to see what’s inside. Bar codes were developed in the late ’40s (the patent application was submitted in October 1949) by the ingenuity of Bernard Silver and Joseph Woodland , precisely, died on Dec. 9 at the age of 90.
Norman Joseph Woodland born on September 6, 1921 in Atlantic City (New Jersey), a city that would attend their high school to enroll at Drexel University in Philadelphia to study Mechanical Engineering (ending in 1947). At the outbreak of World War II, Joseph Woodland was called up and did his military service as an assistant coach at the military installations of Oak Ridge (Tennessee) who worked for the Manhattan Project , that is, the development of the Atomic Bomb. After the war, he returned to Woodland after graduating college and stayed in it as a teacher during the academic year of 1948-1949.
During his student days, Woodland developed an efficient system to store the music that was used in the music of the elevators. He was able to store 15 audio tracks on a tape of just 35 mm, a significant if we consider that, at the time, were used several LPs and cassette tapes. While the idea was good and intended to sell it, his father took the idea of the head for fear into disputes with organized crime in Atlantic City (the mafia of the time, as the father of Woodland, controlled the business music from the elevators).
In 1948, the manager of a supermarket in Philadelphia approached the campus of Drexel University to meet with the Dean and see if the University could help you develop a system that could automate the collection of products in the checkout line. Put another way, the store manager looking for a coding method that would allow products to lighten the collection of these. While the Dean of the University not it funny that request, Bernard Silver (a fellow student of Joseph Woodland) heard part of the conversation and went looking for Woodland to see if they were able to solve the problem and, perhaps , find a viable business idea.
To a first approximation, Joseph Woodland thought of using fluorescent ink and read it with an ultraviolet light but the scheme was a fiasco. Still, Woodland thought he might be able to develop a viable solution if you spent so long in the winter of 1948, decided to leave the University of Dexter to withdraw into his grandparents’ house in Miami Beach to think of a solution the problem of the supermarket. Sitting in a chair on the beach, Woodland concluded that the first problem to solve was to set an encoding and therefore had to use a code to represent data.
Having spent several childhood years in the Boy Scouts, the only code I knew was the Morse and thought that maybe it could be adapted to a graph:
What I will say it sounds like a fairy tale. I put my four toes in the sand and, for some reason unknown to me, took my hand pulling her towards me and punched four lines in the sand. At that moment I thought “Wow! Now I have four lines that could be wide or narrow lines lines instead of dots and dashes”. Seconds later, I move my fingers (which were sunk in the sand) and spun in a circle
The first sketch of barcode, that is, he made Joseph Woodland on the sandy beaches of Miami, was circular and, in fact, it consists in the patent in 1952 as the first time + + is thought the omnidirectionality ** system, ie that could be read in any direction (hence the do loop). The first prototype of the scanner depended on a beam of 500 watts of power, a fact that made it unfeasible for possible commercial exploitation and made Silver and Woodland selling their patent to Philco company for $ 15,000 at the time and it’s subsequently sell to RCA (with an attempt to exploit the technology commercially in the 60s).
In 1951, Woodland went to work at IBM where, at first, tried to exploit the technology of bar codes without much success. However, in 1969, RCA (which owned the patent until it expired, precisely in that year) had held talks with the National Association of Food Chains (which grouped the companies linked to food and its distribution and marketing) to develop a uniform code to identify the products and set up a working group which joined IBM in 1971.
When IBM learned that the inventor of the bar code proposed RCA worked in their ranks, the company moved quickly to Joseph Woodland to its facilities in North Carolina where he would play a key role in the development of the UPC (Universal Product Code) by IBM is put ahead of RCA in this area. The first Barcode scanner was used commercially was installed in a supermarket in Ohio and would debut with a pack of gum in 1974.
Joseph Woodland keep working at IBM until his retirement in 1987 and, in 1992, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for the development of barcodes (an award that was presented by President George HW Bush) and in 2011 his name was included in the Hall of Fame of the American Inventors (along with Bernard Silver, who died in 1963).
Joseph Woodland died on 9 December at the age of 91 years, leaving a legacy of one of the most widely used coding systems in the world that is present in inventory controls, public libraries, identification systems, consumer products, logistics chains, stories clinics and many more use cases.
An invention which, interestingly, came from drawings drawn on the sand of a beach.