Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Symbolic Obituary

June this year marked the passing of one Alan Haberman, a guy who ushered in one of the most distinctive inventions of the 21st century.

It gets scanned over 5 billion times daily. It enables buying and selling, tracking and saving. It’s on everything from products to animals to people, and it touches almost every pulse of modern existence. Its new generation cell phone-scannable format is a powerful enabler in the consumer revolution. Yes, it is that ubiquitous squashed zebra, the bar code, aka the universal price code.

The detail on how this standardizing revolution emerged via the grocery industry, and the enterprising character behind it, is an interesting case. It involves everything from necessity to conspiracy theory. The UPC is an idea that gradually (across about a quarter of a century) found its way into our lives through inventiveness, tenacity and technology, and like many innovations that make life wonderfully easier, today we take it for granted. It’s the power of an idea.

1 comment:

DME said...

So true. Last week my boss and I were getting silly in Cubicle-world, sending e-mails back and forth in the shape of QR codes. The beauty of QR is that they are so easy to generate and are agreeable to text or poetry, not just coupons and websites. For a few minutes sending coded messages seemed wonderfully 'subversive.'