Norman Joseph Woodland

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Norman Joseph Woodland (born September 6, 1921 in Atlantic City , New Jersey , † December 9, 2012 in Edgewater , New Jersey) is known as the co-inventor of the barcode , for which he obtained a patent on October 7, 1952 with Bernard Silver .


As a boy scout, Joseph Woodland learned Morse Code , which later became the basis for his invention of the bar code. He graduated from Atlantic City High School and received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University in 1947 . As a student, he further developed a system that could be used to sound inside elevators. While the music at that time was mostly recorded via LPs or tapes , Woodland's approach was based on a 15-track system, saved on 35mm film. His father forbade him to develop this further because he thought music in elevators was decadent.

During World War II he was a technical assistant on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge . 1948/49 he was a lecturer at Drexel University. In 1948, his colleague Bernard Silver heard a supermarket manager ask the dean how one could automatically query product information at the checkout. The Dean had reservations, but Silver told Woodland about them. Silver and Woodland developed a system that printed product information on goods with fluorescent ink and read it out with ultraviolet light . But it turned out to be impractical for mass use.

In the winter of 1948, Woodland took a stock gain, resigned his teaching post and moved to live with his grandfather in Miami Beach , Florida. According to later accounts, he was sitting on the beach during the day when the Morse code came back to his mind and he drew lines at various intervals in the sand with four fingers. Looking back, Woodland said:

“That sounds like a fairy tale. [...] I shouted: Ha, I now have four lines, and they could be wide or narrow - instead of [as with Morse code] dots and dashes. "

From this he derived the concept of the barcode, which he and Silver patented in October 1949.

In 1951 he started at IBM . Up until the 1970s, however, it was not possible to develop the technology here, as extremely bright lamps would have been required to read the barcode. Woodland and Silver sold their technology to electronics company Philco for $ 15,000 , and that same year to RCA . Variations of the bar code were developed in the 1960s. The patent expired in 1969 and the US food trade began looking for a uniform standard in 1970. IBM did not participate until 1971 when Woodland was transferred to North Carolina, where he held a key position in the development of the Universal Product Code . From the mid-1970s, the barcode caught on in retail in the United States.

Norman Joseph Woodland died on December 9, 2012 in his home in Edgewater , New Jersey , aged 91, with a daughter.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Former Raleigh resident, co-creator of bar code, dies at age 91. In: Retrieved December 13, 2012
  2. ^ Smithsonian Magazine 1999, quoted in the New York Times
  3. a b c d Münstersche Zeitung : Father of the barcode died: N. Joseph Woodland did not get rich with his idea, but he still revolutionized trade , business and consumers, New York, dpa / AFP, December 15, 2012
  4. a b Joseph Woodland invented the barcode on the beach, on Retrieved December 13, 2012
  5. Thilo Jörgl: "Historic Milestones" were recorded in the Hall of Fame. - Logistics Hall of Fame: 13 new members inducted. Logistik Today , November 30, 2016, accessed December 1, 2016 .