Barcode Magic: Where They're Used & How They Work

Written by: 
Heather Giordano
Posted on: 
June 28, 2017

Barcodes are everywhere these days but do you know how they work? Hint, it’s not as magical as you may think!

What are Barcodes used for?

Barcodes are an alternative to manual entry. It’s a quick way to get data into one system or another, to take out the data entry and help reduce mistakes from typos.

How Does a Barcode Represent a Number?  

It may look like just a bunch of lines and spaces, hence the magical feel, but each of those lines AND spaces represents an individual number. You probably can’t make sense of it just by looking at a barcode but it’s actually pretty simple. Each digit in the number is given the same amount of horizontal space, 7 units. Then, to represent any of the numbers from zero – 0, those 7 units are colored with a different pattern of black and white stripes.

Barcodes can be used to contain any numeric or alphanumeric data that you’d like. Some companies use it for their product codes while others use multiple barcodes for product codes, lot numbers, expiration dates, etc. And still others use 1 barcode to include all of that information.

Barcode Scanners

There are many different scanners available in the field to read barcodes, most smart phones also have the ability these days! In a small convenience store you will probably find a simple wand scanner where in a bigger department store or warehouse/yard you may find a more sophisticated scanner with much more capability. Every operation has a different requirement and the scanner should be obtained after considering the need.