TECH: Barcoding prevalent almost everywhere! (Just kidding)

Brian Klepper writes to tell me that in today’s almanac

On this day in 1974, bar codes were first used in supermarket checkout lanes. In a Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio, the first product to be scanned was a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit chewing gum. It just happened to be the first thing lifted from the cart. Today, the pack of gum is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Of course bar coding is used uniformly in every health care establishment now, so why would the fact that retail’s been using bar-coding for 32 years be on this blog? Oh, hang on a minute….

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  1. I think its worse than this even.
    As best I can tell, the healthcare industry has hamstrung itself by focusing on a particular symbology, the very familiar uni-dimensional the UPC style “linear bar code”. For reasons utterly beyond my comprehension, instead of taking advantage of new optical scanning technology like the 2-D systems you see on every package from Amazon.com, the healthcare industry, if it manages to adopt automated inventory and production control technologies at all, will remain decades behind the curve.
    This is just disgusting.
    Since madates are evidently necessary (this also is disgusting, but…) it seems to me that functionality is what ought to be mandated, and the industry should decide which technology is best-suited. What we should not do is choose a technology and then fit the mandate to what the technology can support. Which apparently is what has happened. The regulators, of course, will say that other technologies are permitted in addition to the mandated linear barcode, true enough. Who thinks any more will be done?
    On the other hand, “EDI” has been around at least in concept since the Berlin Airlift and the healthcare industry pretends all this complicated technology is brand new. So maybe it isn’t completely unreasonable to dictate something so very “mature” you can get it at Best Buy.
    Then again, maybe the “least common-denominator approach” is designed to prevent anyone having an advantage. We will all be equally unsafe and inefficient.

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