April 4th – Barcodes

Barcodes have always fascinated me.  How can a bunch of vertical lines tell a computer what a product is and how much to charge?  More so – how can they be universal?  Once I started studying Computer Science and binary, the whole world or barcodes opened up to me.

April 4th – Barcodes

Now barcodes seem like an interesting choice to write about.  They are practical and I used them for inventory in my previous job.  We also made barcodes for our own purposes to quickly scan inventory and be able to check out to students that much quicker and more efficiently – I mean, libraries have been doing this for years.  But how does it work?

Barcodes are very similar to binary in the there or not there(1’s or 0’s) system.  The number of available slots turn into binary place value so combinations go up exponentially as you increase.  Barcodes use a black and while lined system to give the numbers 1-9 and then those numbers are what makes up the middle of the code, with end end being the “check digit” which adds together the odd number digits, then multiplies by 3, then adds the even number digits, and adds that number to the total of the odd numbers and then has a check to see if numbers added are divisible by 10.  Whew.  Thank god for computers eh?

Along with QR Codes, there are plenty of interesting activities you can do with barcodes in your class, and it’s a great way to show math and computer science concepts in an everyday item.  Also check out some of the interesting ways people have incorporated logos into barcodes.


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