Barcodes are “old news” now-a-days, having been a normal feature of products bought every day. This was not the case in the 1950's, however, when barcodes were an inventive and costly idea. Barcodes were developed as something to help track and price products for both manufacturers and store owners. This led to the first barcode being developed in 1952. However it would be years before barcodes would be widely accepted simply due hesitance to adopt the new technology due to high cost of outfitting stores with barcode scanners.
These first barcodes were called linear, or one dimensional “1D”. These basic barcodes could represented data with parallel lines each of different widths. Universal Product Codes “UPC”, the ones seen adorning most store products, are what most people associate with a “barcode”. Since their inception, however, barcodes have grown far past linear and moved into a new dimension – two dimensional to be exact. Two dimensional “2D” or “matrix” barcodes evolved out of the need to store a greater amount of data than linear barcodes could hope to hold. These new barcodes represent data through a variety of symbols such as squares, dots, rectangles and hexagons. Currently there are 48 recognized types of two dimensional barcodes, all of which are represented differently and hold different sizes and types of data. Without going into depth about all 48, here are some of the most well known and used 2D barcodes.
- QR Code: Popular barcodes developed by Japanese company Denso Wave. QR codes are one of the most well known and easily accessible 2D barcodes, with numerous free, open source qr code generators and scanners available to any smart phone owner.
- Micro QR Code: Also made by Denso Wave, the Micro QR code is the same as a QR code, but is smaller and holds a smaller amount of data.
- PDF417: A 2D barcode developed by Symbol Technologies, a subsidiary of Motorola. The PDF417 code flaunts being able to hold complete data files worth of information.
- Micro PDF417: A miniature version of the PDF417 2D barcode which can encode up to 150 bytes of data. Micro PDF417 can also be attributed to Symbol Technologies.
- DataMatrix: This barcode can hold up to 2,000 characters. It is often used at the manufacturing label to encrypt serial numbers for a variety of products.
- Maxi Code: This 2D barcode which resides in the public domain is used primary for package tracking for the United Parcel Services, better known as UPS.
- Aztec Code: Also residing in the public domain is the Aztec Code, developed by AIM, Inc. Traditionally one can find this barcode on official documents and event tickets.
- Dot Code: The younger crowd may be more familiar with this barcode, used by big game company Nintendo, who licensed it from Olympus Corporation. The dot code was used on trading cards which could be scanned and used with popular video games.
- EZcode: Another in the long list of 2D barcodes. This one was developed exclusively for mobile camera phones by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich.