The New York Times has what must be the most interesting obituary of the day: that of 91-year-old N. Joseph Woodland, who invented the now-ubiquitous bar code with a colleague in the late 1940s. Among the tidbits:
- Aha moment: It came while Woodland sat on the beach at his parents' Miami Beach home in the winter of 1948, thinking about how to adapt the Morse Code he learned as a Boy Scout. "What I’m going to tell you sounds like a fairy tale,” Woodland once told Smithsonian magazine. “I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason—I didn’t know—I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’"
- No riches: The invention was years ahead of its time, and Woodland and co-inventor Bernard Silver sold the patent for a relative pittance of $15,000.
- Elevator music: As a young man, Woodland figured out how to provide elevator music efficiently, but his father forbade him from pursuing the idea commercially—because he feared the mob.
Read the full obituary here
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