Norman Joseph Woodland, the co-inventor of the barcode that labels billions of products in stores around the world, has died at his New Jersey home at the age of 91.
Woodland’s death was confirmed by his daughter, Susan Woodland, who told the New York Times he died on Sunday from effects of Alzheimer’s disease and complications of advanced age.
Woodland and co-inventor Robert Silver were students at Philadelphia’s Drexel University when Silver overheard a grocery-store executive asking an administrator to support research on how product information could be captured at checkout.
The pair earned a patent in the US in 1952 with Woodland’s idea to create a shape of concentric circles. The patent was later sold for just $15,000.
The technology did not catch on until the 1970s, when Woodland’s employer IBM promoted a rectangular barcode that was adopted as the standard.
The modern-day barcode is estimated to be scanned more than five billion times every day.