On this day June 26, 1974
The Universal Product Code is scanned for the first time to sell a package of Wrigley’s chewing gum at the Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio.
Wallace Flint proposed an automated checkout system in 1932 using punch cards. Bernard Silver, Franklin Light, and Norman Joseph Woodland developed a bull’s-eye style code, patented it (filed in 1949 and received in 1952).
In the 1960s railroads experimented with a multicolor barcode for tracking railcars, but eventually abandoned it.
A group of grocery industry trade associations formed the Uniform Grocery Product Code Council which with consultants Larry Russell and Tom Wilson of McKinsey & Company, defined the numerical format of the Uniform Product Code.
Technology firms including Charegon, IBM, Litton-Zellweger, Pitney Bowes-Alpex, Plessey-Anker, RCA, Scanner Inc. and Singer proposed alternative symbol representations to the council. In the end the Symbol Selection Committee chose to slightly modify, changing the font in the human readable area, the IBM proposal designed by George J. Laurer.
Although various companies had UPC Scanning systems in the back of stores, the first UPC marked item ever scanned at a retail checkout (Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio) was at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974, and was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. The entire shopping cart also had barcoded items in it, but the gum was merely the first one picked up by the cashier. This item is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.