George Laurer, who invented the universal product code, has died at his home in North Carolina. He was 94.
The UPC or bar code is the unique marking — made up of black stripes of varying thicknesses and a 12-digit number — allotted to products sold worldwide. It allows retailers to identify each product and its price by using a scanner.
Laurer, who died Dec. 5, was working as an electrical engineer at IBM when he was assigned to the project, an idea pioneered by colleague Norman Woodland, who died in 2012.
Laurer brought Woodland’s idea to fruition in the 1970s with the help of lasers and computers.
Laurer said retailers spent millions in time and labor putting price tags on every item. The bar code allowed them to reduce pricing errors and keep an accurate count of inventory.
The first product scanned, in June 1974, was a pack of Wrigley’s chewing gum. It is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington.