The idea of the retail barcode was developed by Joseph Woodland in 1948. He was presented with the challenge from a local retailer of how to speed up the checking out process in a local store by automating transactions.
Thin and thick lines could be used to encode information to describe a product and its price in a code that a machine could read. This became more of a possibility over time as computers were advanced and lasers were invented.
The barcode was originally a round bulls-eye but in the 1970 it redesigned to be a rectangle by George Laurer.
The first product to be sold via barcode was Wrigley’s Chewing gum in 1974 in a supermarket in Ohio. 10 packs were sold and the register automatically registered the price. Full article available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk