George J. Laurer, who is widely credited with designing the Universal Product Code (more commonly known as a bar code) has passed away at the age of 94.
According to his obituary published in The New York Times, Laurer designed the now ubiquitous code while employed at IBM. In his effort to develop a code that was compatible with a new generation of optical scanners, Laurer came up with a rectangular design that incorporated 95 bits of data in binary code containing the relevant product information. The new bar code reportedly made its debut in 1974 on a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum.
Laurer worked at IBM’s Research Triangle Park facility in North Carolina from 1951 to 1987. He received 26 separate patents during his time there, including one for a hand-held device designed to scan bar codes. IBM never patented Laurer’s bar code design, and Laurer never earned any royalties for his work. However, he was inducted into the Innovation Hall of Fame at the University of Maryland (his alma mater) in 1991 for his work on the bar code.