Barcodes- How do they work & how do I use them?

Barcodes, no don’t click away already, this is interesting I promise! Well if not interesting at the very least useful. Developed by Bernard and Norman in the early 50s, it took over 20 years before barcodes gained recognition.

They are simple things. The black and white lines represent data. When you scan the barcode, the scanner identifies a white column as a ‘0’ and a black column as a ‘1’. All the ‘0s’ and ‘1s’ are placed together and checked against a database. Then your device shows you all the data associated with that barcode. That is your simple 1D Barcode

There are new types of barcode, typically square, 2D barcodes. Sometimes called QR codes. While they may not have lines that represent the ‘0s’ and ‘1s’, they have squares which do the same thing. 2D Barcodes use squares to represent the data because this allows them to show a much larger amount of data. (Up to 2000 characters compared to 1D’s 8-15)

Another advantage of 2D is that you can place images or website address into the code. This means you don’t have to have a database to connect to, to make use of the code.

So what do you use barcodes for?

1D barcodes are probably the most commonly seen. They appear on every product in a supermarket where their larger size and limited storage capacity aren’t an issue (as the barcode is only used for locating the item in the store’s database).

2D Barcodes are newer. The smaller black and white markings used to mean a greater expense in purchasing scanners. However, in recent years the cost of 2D scanners has fallen considerably. This has seen them start to dominate the supply chain. Your mobile phone can make a competent 2D scanner and as such, you will find 2D codes in visitor centres to share web pages or audio tours with their guests.

You’ll also find these 2D scanners on manufacturing computer components; where the small size and large amount of data storage are key. Also in shipping & logistics; where you don’t need a centralised database between companies. They’re also found on the shop floor where being able to scan the code at any angle saves hours over the course of a couple of months.

Not to mention that 2D scanners can read 1D barcodes (not vice-versa). This has allowed companies to slowly replace hardware, without the huge investment of replacing an entire back office system.

So you know how they work and what they are used for! Not you might want to know how to make barcodes. MobileWorxs partners with Zebra & Sewoo (thermal printer manufacturers) who both supply free label creation software with their printers which include barcode creators. There are numerous 3rd party barcode & label software packages.

If you want to give it a go and experience making a barcode for free, why not visit our American partner’s free online barcode creation tool, MobileDemand Barcode Generator.

On the other hand, if you want some help on choosing the right Printer, Software & Labels for Barcoding; then give us a call +44 (0)1905 799555, or email us, and one of our team would be happy to help.

Scroll to Top