It started with a single scan in 1974, and 40 years later there are 5 billion scans per day around the world.
June 26 marked the 40th anniversary of the supermarket scanner entering service in a Marsh Supermarket in Troy, Ohio.
According to the National Museum of American History website, a man by the name of Clyde Dawson entered the supermarket, loaded up his cart with groceries and approached the checkout line. The cashier that day was Sharon Buchanan. At 8:01 a.m., she picked a 10-pack of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum out of his cart and scanned it.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec)
Cashier Beth Richards scans items at Martin’s Food Market at 1000 Logan Blvd. recently. Scanners like the ones used at supermarkets turn 40 this year.
From that point on, the grocery check-out process was streamlined, and companies could easily identify and electronically capture what was sold at point-of-sale, creating a more efficient and enjoyable consumer experience, according to GS1 US, an information standards organization and administrator of the UPC barcode.
Although barcodes were invented in the late 1940s, the technology to read them didn't exist. It was the supermarket industry that moved the idea forward.
"We knew that technology like this would significantly improve the customer experience, speeding up check-out time, keeping the shelves properly stocked and keep prices competitive because of the efficiencies gained everywhere from the warehouse to the store shelf," said Tom O'Boyle, CEO and president of Marsh Supermarkets, in a statement.
Today, barcodes are used by millions of businesses and organizations around the world to track and identify retail products, manufacturing materials, marathon runners, event tickets, chemicals, hospital patient information and more.
"What started as a way to speed grocery store checkout has become a common standard for industries around the world to identify, capture and share information about products and locations in real time," said Bob Carpenter, president and CEO of GS1 US in a statement.
Sunbury-based Weis Markets was an early adapter to the new system, said spokesman Dennis Curtin.
"We take it for granted now, but the price scanner and bar code changed everything for the good for supermarkets and more importantly for our customers," Curtin said. "We no longer had to put price stickers on every product we sold. Cashiers didn't have to look for the stickers, which were sometimes obscured or torn, and our stock clerks didn't have to put a price sticker on all the products we sold.
"With bar code, the price was already on the product so it made things more efficient when we stocked the products, and at checkout, our cashiers scanned the product, and the price came up. It made buying groceries so much easier."
Supermarket price scanners are an invaluable piece of equipment for the industry, said Christopher Brand, spokesman for Carlisle-based Martin's Food Markets and Giant Food Stores.
"The gains in accuracy, efficiency and speed are appreciated by both our customers and our operations team. The familiar beep that you hear at the checkout has a lot of complexity behind it that leads to customer satisfaction." Brand said.
The supermarket scanner also has had a big impact on Sheetz Inc.
"Customer service is the most important thing that we do," said Ryan Sheetz, director of brand.
"We scan in the prices rather than key them in like they did years ago. It helps us keep accurate books.
"For us, it provides reliable, accurate pricing. We don't have to slap stickers on every item. There is less work, hassle and headaches for the person who is checking you out.
"It helps to control labor costs and inventory costs and you pay the right price for the product," Sheetz said.
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.