Four Decades Later, the UPC Barcode Is Still Reshaping Retail


The recent death of Alan Haberman, who chaired the industry committee that led the charge to standardize the universal product code, or UPC, symbol in 1973, shines a spotlight on just how much the introduction of the bar code transformed retailing and the American shopping experience.

By the 1970s, supermarket chains were expanding at an exponential rate to serve the growth of suburbia. In turn, grocers were seeking ways to automate checkout as well as their inventory management. The bar code was revolutionary for its ability to track inventory.