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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Automation and Technology in the Histology Laboratory. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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History and Types of Barcode Technology

The use of barcodes began as far back at the 1960's. Linear barcodes and Universal Product Codes (UPC) were commonly used in the grocery industry by the early 1970's. Today, barcodes are everywhere and are utilized almost anywhere there is a need to accurately identify and track an item, increase productivity, and reduce human error.
Standard barcode formats, called symbologies, each exist for a distinct purpose. The symbology defines the printed barcode symbol and also relays how the device, such as a barcode scanner, will read and decipher the printed code. All barcode generating devices need to be able to rapidly produce good quality, two-dimensional barcodes. These barcodes convey information, contain error correction coding, and are able to support just in time (JIT) printing.
A two-dimensional (2-D) barcode is a little more complex than a simple one dimension bar code, such as the UPC code. The 2-D barcode offers a more complex graphic in two dimensions, which allows for storage of information both horizontally and vertically. Unlike the simpler UPC code, the 2-D barcode can store up to 7,089 characters and the data embedded within it can be accessed quicker. Most 2-D barcodes are square or rectangular in shape. The primary advantage of 2-D barcodes is the ability to encode larger amounts of information in a very small area. A barcode scanner can then be utilized to read the code and transfer the information between the source and the laboratory information system (LIS) system or instrument software applications. For example, the ABC barcode symbology is the standard coding used for blood bank tracking.