barcodesBarcodes. How long have they been around? Well since 1952 actually – invented by Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, but they weren’t commercially used until 1966 and there were no standards in place until 1970. The Universal Product Code (UPC) which we still use today was introduced in 1973, the following year a barcode scanner was introduced and the first product to display the lines we are used to now was a packet of Wrigley’s chewing gum!

But in this day and age where efficiency and speed mean everything in business (time is money!) it’s amazing to think that probably the world’s best time saving process was created so long ago.

Only recently with QRCodes have we seen a new advancement in the area. QRCodes being a 2D image that can contain a whole lot more data than a string of numbers.


Recently though, I’ve been playing with barcode readers on my quickmarkiPhone. The most popular is RedLaser – but one often over looked is /index.asp”>Quickmark. This excellent iPhone (or Android) app can read EAN 8/13, UPC-E, UPC-A, Code 39 and Code 128 1D barcodes as well as the 2D QRCode format.

Now the advantage of being able to read code 39, which at time of going to press RedLaser cannot, is the fact you can specify alpha’s as well as numeric in your barcodes.

Now there are thousands of companies than produce their own SKU’s which contain both alpha and numeric characters so will have this information on their website or in their printed catalogues – but these same companies probably will not have the UPC reference for each and every product. Especially if the company is a supplier of multiple brands, i.e Argos.

Another useful function in Quickmark is to allow the app to redirect the user to a URL with the appended barcode reference once scanned. This therefore provides the opportunity for companies to enable users to scan their SKU and be sent automatically into their website to display the product.

There are also numerous websites where you can generate code 39 barcodes very easily. There are also font sites where you can download the code 39 font.
One such site that offers loads of useful tools for code 39 scanning is http://idautomation.com

If you are wanting to generate your own code 39 barcodes dynamically, you can easily do this using PHP.
It is important you have the GD library installed and can help if you also have FreeType, both of which require installation on your apache server which in many cases can only be done by your provider.

If you do have these installed then by using the scripts at…
You can very easily get started on generating your own barcodes on the fly.

I’ve had a blast at this and found it quite simple. One tip would be if you are trying to place your barcodes in a certain way on your webpage then the best script to use is the image.php script that comes in the download. This requires certain variables sending to the page – but apart from that is straightforward to use.
Many of the other demo scripts use header(”Content-type: image/jpeg”); which sets the contents of the page to an image. Once this is done it’s difficult to format your page as you want.

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