George J. Laurer, who invented the barcode, died Thursday at his Wendell home at the age of 94.
According to his obituary, Laurer invented the Universal Product Code (UPC) that appears on virtually every product sold worldwide. He was born in New York City, survived polio, and served in the Army during World War 2. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1951 and worked at IBM as an electrical engineer for more than 30 years.
After he invented the UPC barcode, Laurer was inducted into the University of Maryland Engineering Innovation Hall of Fame in 1991.
WRAL’s Tar Heel Traveler interviewed Laurer in 2010, and he said he still can’t believe his invention worked.
“I watch those clerks zipping stuff across the scanners and I keep thinking to myself, ‘It can’t read that well — it can’t work that well,’” Laurer said.
Laurer is survived by family members in Raleigh and Clayton in addition to loved ones in Connecticut and Kentucky.
“George Laurer’s work has touched and improved the daily lives of nearly everyone in the world,” his obituary reads. “As a father, his caring and selfless focus on his family shall be deeply missed.”
Laurer told WRAL he worked with Joe Woodland at IBM in Raleigh during the 1970s. Woodland was cited by some news reports as the invented of the bar code when he died earlier.
According to Laurer, Woodland patented a type of code in 1949 and later came up with the idea of using it on grocery products. At IBM in Raleigh in the 1970s he wrote proposals for such an idea. But Laurer, also at IBM in Raleigh, realized Woodland’s code would not meet necessary requirements. So Laurer invented another type of code that did meet those requirements, and it’s his code that was eventually adopted and which is used in groceries across America.