The Universal Product Code (UPC or UPC code) is a barcode symbology that is widely used worldwide for tracking trade items in stores.
The chosen symbology has bars (or spaces) of exactly 1, 2, 3, or 4 units wide each; each decimal digit to be encoded consists of two bars and two spaces chosen to have a total width of 7 units, in both an "even" and an "odd" parity form, which enables being scanned in either direction. Special "guard patterns" (3 or 5 units wide, not encoding a digit) are intermixed to help decoding.
A UPC (technically, a UPCA) consists of 12 digits that are uniquely assigned to each trade item. The international GS1 organisation assigns the digits used for both the UPC and the related International Article Number (EAN) barcode.^{[1]} UPC data structures are a component of Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) and follow the global GS1 specification, which is based on international standards. Some retailers, such as clothing and furniture, do not use the GS1 system, instead using other barcode symbologies or article number systems. Some retailers use the EAN/UPC barcode symbology, but do not use a GTIN for products sold only in their own stores.
Research indicates that the adoption and diffusion of the UPC stimulated innovation and contributed to the growth of international retail supply chains.^{[2]}
Wallace Flint proposed an automated checkout system in 1932 using punched cards. Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland, a graduate student from Drexel Institute of Technology, developed a bull'seyestyle code and applied for the patent in 1949.^{[3]}^{[4]}
In the 1960s and early 1970s, railroads in North America experimented with multicolor bar codes for tracking railcars, but this system was eventually abandoned^{[5]} and replaced with a radiobased system called Automatic Equipment Identification (AEI).
In 1973, a group of trade associations from the grocery industry formed the Uniform Product Code Council (UPCC) which, with the help of consultants Larry Russell and Tom Wilson of McKinsey & Company, defined the numerical format that formed the basis of the Uniform Product Code.^{[6]} Technology firms including Charegon, IBM, LittonZellweger, Pitney BowesAlpex, PlesseyAnker, RCA, Scanner Inc., Singer, and Dymo Industries/Data General, put forward alternative proposals for symbol representations to the council.^{[citation needed]} The Symbol Selection Committee finally chose to implement the IBM proposal designed by George J. Laurer, but with a slight modification to the font in the human readable area.^{[citation needed]}
The first UPCmarked item ever to be scanned at a retail checkout was a 10pack (50 sticks) of Wrigley's Juicy Fruit chewing gum, purchased at the Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio, at 8:01 a.m. on 26 June 1974.^{[7]} The NCR cash register rang up 67 cents.^{[8]} The shopping cart also contained other barcoded items but the gum was the first one picked up at the checkout. A facsimile of the gum packet went on display at the Smithsonian Institution's American history museum in Washington, D.C.^{[9]}^{[10]}
Murray Eden was a consultant on the team that created the Universal Product Code barcode.^{[11]}^{[12]} As Chairman of a committee of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he helped "select a symbol that would endure the inevitable rush of technology that lay ahead."^{[13]} He chose the font, and he came up with the idea to add numbers to the bottom, which is a failsafe system, in case the barcode reader is not working correctly.^{[14]}^{[15]}
Around late 1969, IBM at Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina assigned George Laurer to determine how to make a supermarket scanner and label. In late 1970, Heard Baumeister provided equations to calculate charactersperinch achievable by two IBM bar codes, Delta A and Delta B. In February 1971, Baumeister joined Laurer.
Delta B compared bar widths to space width to code bits. This was extremely sensitive to ink spread, where improper levels of ink or pressure would cause both edges of a bar to spread outward or shrink in.
In mid 1971, William "Bill" Crouse invented a new bar code called Delta C.^{[4]} It achieved four times the characters per inch as Delta B.
Delta C achieved its higher performance by only using leading to leading or trailing to trailing edges which was unaffected by uniform ink spread. The code provided best performance when it had a defined character set with a fixed reference distance that spanned most or preferably all the character.
In August 1971, Crouse joined the scanner effort. After several months they had made no progress. They were aware of the RCA bull's eye label that could be scanned with a simple straight line laser scanner, but a readable label was far too large.
Although Litton Industries proposed a bull's eye symbol cut in half to reduce the area, it was still too large and presented the same ink smear printing problems as the RCA symbol. The redundancy and checking ability were removed completely. They were also aware of the many proposals from around the world, none of which were feasible.
In the spring of 1972, Baumeister announced a breakthrough. He proposed a label with bars that were slightly longer than the distance across all bars that needed to be read in a single pass. This label could be scanned with a simple "X" scanner only slightly more complex than the straight line laser scanner. The next day Baumeister suggested if the label were split into two halves the bar lengths could be cut nearly in half.
These two proposals reduced the area from the bull's eye by one third and then one sixth. The image to the right shows the label proposed by Baumeister. He did not specify any specific bar code as that was well understood. Except for the bar coding and ten digits the UPC label today is his proposal. Shortly after that Baumeister transferred to another area of RTP.
Laurer proceeded to define the details of the label and write a proposal. N.J. Woodland was assigned as planner for the project and aided Laurer with writing his proposal.
Laurer's first attempt with a bar code used Delta B. The resulting label size was about six inches by three inches which was too large. Crouse suggested that Laurer use his Delta C bar code and provided a copy of his patent that had a sample alphanumeric character set and rules to generate other size alphabets. This reduced the label size to about 1.5” x 0.9”.
Later Laurer asked Crouse for assistance in how the scanner could detect a label. Together they defined guard bars and a definition of how to detect the label. The guard bars also provided identification for half label discrimination and training bars for the scanner threshold circuits. Laurer had a complete label definition and proceeded to write his proposal.^{[16]}
Previously Crouse had an idea for a simple wand worn like a ring and bracelet. He decided to develop that wand to provide a demonstration of the label.^{[citation needed]}
On 1 December 1972, IBM presented Laurer's proposal to the Super Market Committee in Rochester, Minnesota, the location where IBM would develop the scanner. During the presentation, Crouse gave a lab demonstration where he read UPClike labels with his ring wand. In addition to reading regular labels, he read the large twopage centerfold label in the proposal booklet. He then turned to a page showing a photo of labeled items sitting on a table. The labels were small and flawed due to the resolution of the printed photo but the wand read many of them. This demonstration showed the robustness of the pure Delta C code. The proposal was accepted.
One month later, 1 January 1973 Crouse transferred back to IBM's Advanced Technology group, and Laurer remained with the full responsibility for the label.
Dymo Industries, makers of handheld printing devices insisted that the code be character independent,^{[clarification needed]} so that handheld printing devices could produce the bar code in store if the items were not barcoded by the manufacturers. Dymo's proposal was accepted by IBM and incorporated in IBM's latest proposal.
It was decided that the two halves of the label should have a different set of numeric characters. The character set Laurer derived from the Delta C patent used seven printable increments or units where two bars and two spaces would be printed. This yielded twenty combinations of characters, but there were two pairs that when read by Delta C rules yielded the same code for the pair.
Since eighteen characters were not enough Laurer tried adding one unit to the character set. This yielded twentysix Delta C characters which could provide the two sets of decimal characters but it also added fourteen percent to the width of the label and thereby the height. This would be a thirty percent increase in area or a label of 1.7”x1.03”. Laurer felt this was not acceptable.
Laurer returned to the original character set with twenty characters but four of those were two pairs with the same Delta C reading. He decided to use them all. To distinguish between the pairs he would measure one bar width in each of the pairs to distinguish them from each other. For each pair those bars would be one or two units wide.
Laurer did not apply Baumeister's equations to this set. He felt just one bar width measurement would not be too serious. As it turned out it would have required over fifty percent increase in width and height for an area increase of more than double. Laurer later admitted these four characters in each set were responsible for most of the scanner read errors.
David Savir, a mathematician, was given the task of proving the symbol could be printed and would meet the reliability requirements, and was most likely unaware of Baumeister's equations. He and Laurer added two more digits to the ten for error detection and correction.
Then they decided to add odd/even parity to the number of units filled with bars in each side. Odd/even parity is a technique used to detect any odd number of bit errors in a bit stream. They decided to use odd on one half and even on the other. This would provide additional indication of which half ticket was being read. This meant that every bar width had to be read accurately to provide a good reading. It also meant every space would also be known.
Requiring every bit width to be read precisely basically nullified the Delta C advantage except for the Delta C reference measurement. Only the strange character set and the size of the label remains as a shadow of the Delta C code. The size was still that calculated for pure Delta C. If the label size had been properly recalculated, taking into account the required bar width measurements the label would have been far too large to be acceptable.
Mechanical engineering and electronic circuit design commonly require worst case designs using known tolerances. Many engineers working with bar codes had little experience with such things and used somewhat intuitive methods. This was the cause of the poor performance of the Delta B code and quite likely the failure of RCA's bull's eye scanner.
The following table shows the workable labels, available in the early 1970s, with their sizes.
Label type  Label dimensions  Area 

Bull's eye with Morse Code  Large  Large 
Bull's eye with Delta B  12.0 in (300 mm) diameter  113.10 in^{2} (729.7 cm^{2}) 
Bull's eye with Delta A  9.0 in (230 mm) diameter  63.62 in^{2} (410.5 cm^{2}) 
Baumeister 1st w/ Delta B  6.0 in × 5.8 in (150 mm × 150 mm)  34.80 in^{2} (224.5 cm^{2}) 
Baumeister 2 halves w/ Delta B  6.0 in × 3.0 in (152 mm × 76 mm)  18.00 in^{2} (116.1 cm^{2}) 
Baumeister 2 halves w/ Delta A  4.5 in × 2.3 in (114 mm × 58 mm)  10.35 in^{2} (66.8 cm^{2}) 
Baumeister with Delta C  1.5 in × 0.9 in (38 mm × 23 mm)  1.35 in^{2} (8.7 cm^{2}) 
This is assuming a bull's eye with the same information and reliable readability.
Each UPCA barcode consists of a scannable strip of black bars and white spaces above a sequence of 12 numerical digits. No letters, characters or other content of any kind may appear on a UPCA barcode. There is a onetoone correspondence between 12digit number and strip of black bars and white spaces, i.e. there is only one way to represent each 12digit number visually and there is only one way to represent each strip of black bars and white spaces numerically.
The scannable area of every UPCA barcode follows the pattern SLLLLLLMRRRRRRE, where S (start), M (middle), and E (end) guard patterns are represented the same way on every UPCA barcode and the L (left) and R (right) sections collectively represent the 12 numerical digits that make each UPCA unique. The first digit L indicates a particular number system to be used by the following digits. The last digit R is an error detecting check digit, that allows some errors to be detected in scanning or manual entry. The guard patterns separate the two groups of six numerical digits and establish the timing.
UPCA  UPCE 

UPCA 042100005264 is equivalent to UPCE 425261 with the "EOEEOO" parity pattern, which is defined by UPCA number system 0 and UPCA check digit 4.
UPCA barcodes can be printed at various densities to accommodate a variety of printing and scanning processes. The significant dimensional parameter is called xdimension (width of single module element). The width of each bar (space) is determined by multiplying the xdimension and the module width (1, 2, 3, or 4 units) of each bar (space). Since the guard patterns each include two bars, and each of the 12 digits of the UPCA barcode consists of two bars and two spaces, all UPCA barcodes consist of exactly (3 × 2) + (12 × 2) = 30 bars, of which 6 represent guard patterns and 24 represent numerical digits.
The xdimension for the UPCA at the nominal size is 0.33 mm (0.013"). Nominal symbol height for UPCA is 25.9 mm (1.02"). The bars forming the S (start), M (middle), and E (end) guard patterns, are extended downwards by 5 times xdimension, with a resulting nominal symbol height of 27.55 mm (1.08"). This also applies to the bars of the first and last numerical digit of UPCA barcode. UPCA can be reduced or magnified anywhere from 80% to 200%.
A quiet zone, with a width of at least 9 times the xdimension, must be present on each side of the scannable area of the UPCA barcode.^{[17]}^{[18]} For a GTIN12 number encoded in a UPCA barcode, the first and last digits of the humanreadable interpretation are always placed outside the symbol in order to indicate the quiet zones that are necessary for UPC barcode scanners to work properly.
The UPCA barcode is visually represented by strips of bars and spaces that encode the UPCA 12digit number. Each digit is represented by a unique pattern of 2 bars and 2 spaces. The bars and spaces are variable width, i.e. 1, 2, 3, or 4 modules wide. The total width for a digit is always 7 modules; consequently, UPCA 12digit number requires a total of 7×12 = 84 modules.
A complete UPCA is 95 modules wide: 84 modules for the digits (L and R sections) combined with 11 modules for the S (start), M (middle), and E (end) guard patterns. The S (start) and E (end) guard patterns are 3 modules wide and use the pattern barspacebar, where each bar and space is one module wide. The M (middle) guard pattern is 5 modules wide and uses the pattern spacebarspacebarspace, where each bar and space is also one module wide. In addition, a UPCA symbol requires a quiet zone (extra space of 9 modules wide) before the S (start) and after the E (end) guard patterns.
Quiet zone 
S (start) 
L (left numerical digit) 
M (middle) 
R (right numerical digit) 
E (end) 
Quiet zone  

0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  
The UPCA's lefthand side digits (the digits to the left of the M (middle) guard pattern) have odd parity, which means the total width of the black bars is an odd number of modules. On the contrary, the righthand side digits have even parity. Consequently, a UPC scanner can determine whether it is scanning a symbol from lefttoright or from righttoleft (the symbol is upsidedown). After seeing a S (start) or E (end) guard pattern (they are the same, barspacebar, whichever direction they are read), the scanner will first see odd parity digits, if scanning lefttoright, or even parity digits, if scanning righttoleft. With the parity/direction information, an upsidedown symbol will not confuse the scanner. When confronted with an upsidedown symbol, the scanner may simply ignore it (many scanners alternate lefttoright and righttoleft scans, so they will read the symbol on a subsequent pass) or recognize the digits and put them in the right order. There is another property in the digit encoding. The righthand side digits are the optical inverse of the lefthand side digits, i.e. black bars are turned into white spaces and vice versa. For example, the lefthand side "4" is space×1  bar×1  space×3  bar×2, meanwhile the righthand side "4" is bar×1  space×1  bar×3  space×2.
The number of UPCA and UPCE barcodes are limited by the standards used to create them.
Below is description of all possible number systems with corresponding 12digit UPCA numbering schema LLLLLLRRRRRR, where L denotes number system digit and R check digit.
The UPC includes a check digit to detect common data entry errors. For example, UPCA codes choose the check digit to satisfy the check digit equation:
If an entered code does not satisfy the equation, then it is not a valid UPCA.
The UPCA check digit may be calculated as follows:
For example, in a UPCA barcode "03600029145x_{12}", where x_{12} is the unknown check digit, x_{12} may be calculated by:
Thus, the check digit x_{12} is 2.
The check digit equation is selected to have reasonable error detection properties (see Luhn algorithm).
d N°

0  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 

1  0 0  0 1  0 2  0 3  0 4  0 5  0 6  0 7  0 8  0 9 
2  1 1  1 2  1 3  1 4  1 5  1 6  1 7  1 8  1 9  
3  2 2  2 3  2 4  2 5  2 6  2 7  2 8  2 9  
4  3 3  3 4  3 5  3 6  3 7  3 8  3 9  
5  4 4  4 5  4 6  4 7  4 8  4 9  
6  5 5  5 6  5 7  5 8  5 9  
7  6 6  6 7  6 8  6 9  
8  7 7  7 8  7 9  
9  8 8  8 9  
10  9 9  
Sum  10  18  16  14  12  10  8  6  4  2 
UPC in its most common usage technically refers to UPCA.
Other variants of the UPC exist:
To allow the use of UPC barcodes on smaller packages, where a full 12digit barcode may not fit, a zerosuppressed version of UPC was developed, called UPCE, in which the number system digit, all trailing zeros in the manufacturer code, and all leading zeros in the product code, are suppressed (omitted).^{[23]} This symbology differs from UPCA in that it only uses a 6digit code, does not use M (middle) guard pattern, and the E (end) guard pattern is formed as spacebarspacebarspacebar, i.e. UPCE barcode follows the pattern SDDDDDDE. The way in which a 6digit UPCE relates to a 12digit UPCA, is determined by UPCE numerical pattern and UPCE parity pattern. It can only correspond to UPCA number system 0 or 1, the value of which, along with the UPCA check digit, determines the UPCE parity pattern of the encoding. With the manufacturer code digits represented by M's, and product code digits by P's, then:
Last UPCE digit  UPCE numerical pattern  UPCA equivalent  Available product numbers 

0  MMPPP0  0 or 1 + MM00000PPP + check digit  PPP = 000999 
1  MMPPP1  0 or 1 + MM10000PPP + check digit  PPP = 000999 
2  MMPPP2  0 or 1 + MM20000PPP + check digit  PPP = 000999 
3  MMMPP3  0 or 1 + MMM00000PP + check digit  PP = 0099 
4  MMMMP4  0 or 1 + MMMM00000P + check digit  P = 09 
5  MMMMM5  0 or 1 + MMMMM00005 + check digit  5 = P 
6  MMMMM6  0 or 1 + MMMMM00006 + check digit  6 = P 
7  MMMMM7  0 or 1 + MMMMM00007 + check digit  7 = P 
8  MMMMM8  0 or 1 + MMMMM00008 + check digit  8 = P 
9  MMMMM9  0 or 1 + MMMMM00009 + check digit  9 = P 
For example, a UPCE 654321 may correspond to the UPCA 065100004327 or 165100004324, depending on the UPCE parity pattern of the encoded digits, as described next:
UPCA check digit 
UPCE parity pattern for UPCA number system 0 
UPCE parity pattern for UPCA number system 1 

0  EEEOOO  OOOEEE 
1  EEOEOO  OOEOEE 
2  EEOOEO  OOEEOE 
3  EEOOOE  OOEEEO 
4  EOEEOO  OEOOEE 
5  EOOEEO  OEEOOE 
6  EOOOEE  OEEEOO 
7  EOEOEO  OEOEOE 
8  EOEOOE  OEOEEO 
9  EOOEOE  OEEOEO 
UPCE 654321 with "EOEOEO" parity pattern (UPCA 065100004327) would be encoded as
The barcode would look like this:
Main article: International Article Number 
The EAN13 was developed as a superset of UPCA, adding an extra digit to the beginning of every UPCA number. This expanded the number of unique values theoretically possible by ten times to 1 trillion. EAN13 barcodes also indicate the country in which the company that sells the product is based (which may or may not be the same as the country in which the good is manufactured). The three leading digits of the code determine this, according to the GS1 country codes. Every UPCA code can be easily converted to the equivalent EAN13 code by prepending 0 digit to the UPCA code. This does not change the check digit. All pointofsale systems can now understand both equally.
EAN8 is an 8digit variation of the EAN barcode.
UPC usage notes: