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How Bar Codes Work

Question: How does bar code technology work?

Answer: Bar codes work in much the same way that Morse Code works. Instead of using dots and dashes to create unique patterns that represent letters or numbers, wide and narrow bars and spaces are used. Hence the name "bar" code.

For example, in International Morse Code, the number "3" is represented by:

• • • – –

(three DOTS and two DASHES). One bar code symbology (Interleaved 2 of 5) encodes the number three in five bars or spaces as shown below.

(The number "3" is encoded in 5 elements;

2 wide elements and 3 narrow elements)

Changing the position of the wide elements creates different patterns which can represent different numbers. For example, the number eight is still encoded in five elements but the wide ones are placed in different positions as shown below:

As you can see, the bar code is nothing more than a machine readable code representing any kind of data that your information system uses. Just as Morse Code can encode any message, bar codes have the capability to encode virtually any string of numbers or text. Bar code can encode a company’s present part numbers, purchase order numbers, etc.


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