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Drexel University Celebrates 57th Anniversary of Bar Code Invented by Alumnus

October 7, 2009

Drexel University is celebrating the 57th anniversary of the bar code developed by then Drexel graduate student Joseph Woodland and colleague Bernard Silver to help supermarkets track inventory. Today, the technology created at Drexel has revolutionized retail and inventory management. Woodland and Silver held the first patent on the bar code technology.

Woodland’s inspiration came while sketching in the sand when he made a dash and a dot and a dash and two dots in Morse code. Using his fingers, he extended those dots and dashes down—creating thin and thick lines.

The bar code is not the only industry-changing invention to originate at Drexel.

Paul Baran, a founding father of the Internet and 2007 National Medal of Technology and Innovation award recipient is another example of the University’s history of innovation. Baran developed packet-switching as a military communications system to be used in the event of nuclear attack during the Cold War. Packet-switching laid the foundation for the Internet to develop.

Drexel’s long history of entrepreneurial, ground-breaking innovation was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report, which named the University as one of the nation’s top five most innovative schools.


Noah Cohen, Office of University Relations 215-895-2705, 267-228-5599 (cell) or

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