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authors & audience production & publishing tech light

Decoder rings go mobile

Not since 1975 has the barcode held this much excitement. That year the UPC forerunner first appeared on packaged food. At the same moment, the microwave oven found a permanent spot in America’s kitchens. I concluded that cooking instructions were encoded on packages of frozen peas, and somehow, the waves read the UPC barcode. My conclusion fizzled when UPCs were printed onto magazine covers.

All things scannable are not necessarily microwaveable.

Thirty-five years later the barcode gets a makeover, and your mobile phone is the decoder ring. Block shaped barcodes appear on lots of physical and virtual items including, yes, magazine covers. What these print blocks contain are the ingredients to turn your cell phone into a Wikipedia of widgets.

Until a block is scanned you’re kept guessing about its contents, though often it reveals a website. Cracking the code is as easy as point, scan and click. That sure beats typing a URL into your cell phone’s browser.

All things scannable have greater potential.

My business card rendered as QR Code

By Pam Drucker

Documentation specialist, procedures writer

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