QR Codes 101

2GEveryone has seen barcodes.  They have been in use since the 1950s. They exist on almost everything that can be purchased. Grocery stores rely heavily on them which allows even a novice checkout person to come reasonably close to calculating the amount you owe for that cart load of groceries. An example of a UPC symbol is shown below.  It is the barcode from the book “Programming Perl”, by Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen and Randall Schwartz. Just something I keep handy…

Barcode from Programming Perl, 2nd Edition

Barcode from Programming Perl, 2nd Edition

Barcodes such as these are all well and good, but they do not really hold much information. The need arose in the early 1990s to be able to quickly and reliably scan items and obtain a significant amount of additional data. Along came QR (Quick Response) codes. These codes were developed by Denso-Wave, a Toyota subsidiary. Initially, these types of codes were used to track parts and inventory, but since then, they have found many more uses in business, entertainment, shipping, and many forms of marketing. Depending on the type of data stored, QR codes, like those shown below, can hold over 7000 characters of data! There is an ISO standard definition for QR Codes.  The patent for the technology is still held by Denso-Wave, but they have chosen never to enforce it. They may be used freely and do not require licensing or fees of any kind.

The QR code below contains the tagline from my blog.


HELPMEUSETECH'S BLOG Helping People Navigate a Technology-Filled World

Here is another sample of a QR Code.  When scanned on a portable device, this one should open a browser and bring up my blog’s main page.  Pretty cool!



QR codes can contain almost anything. Numeric data, text, URLs, phone numbers, vCards, email addresses, etc. In order to experiment with this technology, I purchased an application from the Mac App store called QR-Generator. It was $0.99.  To read the codes, I downloaded a free i-device application called Scan.

I’m looking forward to adding one of these to the back of my business card!

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