George J. Laurer was an American engineer and inventor best known for his significant contribution to the development of the Universal Product Code (UPC). Born on September 23, 1925, in New York, Laurer had a strong background in electrical engineering and worked for IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) for over 30 years.
In the late 1960s, Laurer was assigned to work on a project for the grocery industry, which aimed to create a system that could streamline the checkout process and improve inventory management. Drawing on previous work done by his colleagues, Laurer developed a barcode system that would revolutionize the retail industry.
Laurer’s design consisted of a series of unique black and white bars of varying widths, with each sequence representing a specific product. He also introduced a numbering system to identify manufacturers and products. His barcode design allowed scanners to read the information quickly and accurately, making the checkout process more efficient and reducing human error.
In 1973, Laurer’s barcode system, later named the Universal Product Code (UPC), was adopted as the industry standard in the United States. The first UPC barcode was scanned at a grocery store in Ohio on June 26, 1974, marking a major milestone in the history of retail technology.
George Laurer’s invention of the UPC barcode transformed the retail industry by enabling faster and more accurate product identification and inventory control. His work significantly influenced global commerce, supply chain management, and the way consumers interact with products at the point of sale. George Laurer passed away on December 5, 2019, leaving behind a lasting legacy as a pioneer in barcode technology.