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Remembering Joe Woodland, the Man Who Invented the Bar Code

•, By Cade Metz
 Eleven other jurors were ready to convict, but Woodland insisted they had misunderstood the letter of the law, and eventually, he coaxed them back into the courtroom for another talk with the judge. When they returned to jury room, all eleven changed their minds.

Then, with this case settled, Woodland returned to the court the following day for another trial, and it happened again. Eleven jurors disagreed with him, and after a time, he turned them all around — or at least most of the them. “You did it to me once, Woodland,” said a juror who, in Woodland’s telling of the tale, served alongside him on both trials. “You won’t do it again.”

Joe Woodland — who died last week at the age of 91 — is the man who dreamt up what became the Universal Product Code, the ubiquitous bar code used to ring up your groceries every time you visit the supermarket. For Doug Antonelli and Walt Metz, engineers who worked with Woodland on the code at IBM in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Woodland’s chestnut of a jury-room story epitomized the man and his work — however apocryphal the story might be.

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