George Joseph Laurer III (September 23, 1925 – December 5, 2019) was an American engineer for IBM at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. He published 20 bulletins, held 25 patents and developed the Universal Product Code (UPC) in the early 1970s. He devised the coding and pattern used for the UPC, based on Joe Woodland's more general idea for barcodes.
Laurer was a 36-year employee of IBM until his retirement in June 1987. He joined IBM in 1951 as a junior engineer. By 1969, he had been promoted to senior engineer / scientist and moved to the company's offices in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.
At IBM, Laurer was assigned the task of developing barcodes for use in grocery stores. Initially, IBM envisioned a circular bullseye pattern as proposed by Joe Woodland in 1940s. Laurer realized that the pattern was ineffective because of smearing during printing. Instead, he designed a vertical pattern of stripes which he proposed to his superior in 1971 or 1972.
This change was accepted by IBM management and Laurer then worked with Woodland and mathematician David Savir to develop and refine the details. These included the addition of a check digit to provide error correction. In 1973, the IBM proposal was accepted by the Symbol Selection committee of the Uniform Grocery Product Code Council, a consortium of grocery store companies.
Laurer was the holder of 25 patents and authored 20 published Technical Disclosure Bulletins. In 1976, he was given the Raleigh Inventor of the Year Award. In 1980, he received the Corporate Technical Achievement award from IBM.
As of 2019, UPC barcodes were being scanned more than 6 billion times each day, according to GS1.
According to en.wikipedia