David Collins

In Memoriam: David Collins, Father of the Barcode Industry

April 19, 2022
Barcode pioneer helped launch and commercialize widely-used identification technology.

David Collins, widely considered the “father of the barcode industry,” passed away last month at the age of 86, from complications from ALS. According to his obituary notice, Collins’ name appears on several patents issued the by US Patent and Trademark Office related to barcode technology.

At the dawn of his career at Sylvania Electric Products in the late 1950s, Collins created a railroad car tracking system that used unique patterns of red, white, blue and black bars—an early form of the now-ubiquitous barcodes found on physical products of almost every type. In the late 1960s, he left Sylvania and formed his own company, Computer Identics Corp., which by 1970 had developed black-and-white barcodes and laser barcode scanners that could read them. General Motors was among the early adopters, using this barcode technology to scan axles used in automotive assembly.

Computer Identics’ scanners were also used to read barcodes on the ID badges of every athlete, journalist and staff member at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

In 1987, Collins stepped down from the management of Computer Identics to become a consultant at a research and educational firm he founded called Data Capture Institute. He advised numerous multinational corporations as well as branches of the US Government on barcode solutions. In 2011, the US Congress officially recognized Colins as “the father of the barcode industry.”

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