Universal Product Code

The UPC was invented by George Laurer, a prolific inventory with a long history at IBM. The first product ever to successfully pass through a UPC scanner was a pack of Wrigley's gum, in 1974. Like virtually every bar code type, the UPC is governed by GS1, an international standards body that maintains many identification schemas for use in trade.

UPCs became a required bar code for the grocery industry. Most supermarket UPCs consist of 12 digits, including a checksum. But UPCs grew in popularity and have been adopted by all sorts of retailers.

As bar codes became more prevalent, mythologies sprung up around them. The popular Bar Code Tattoo series is based on the dystopian premise of oppressive identification. But the most intriguing UPC conspiracy is known as the "666 controversy" - which associates UPCs with the Book of Revelation's "mark of the Beast".

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