Supermarket Scanner

On 26 June 1974, the first installation of supermarket scanners entered service in a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. This Spectra Physics model A price scanner, is one of those first ten scanners. A package of Wrigley's chewing gum became the first purchase made with scanners that could read the new Uniform Product Code (UPC or barcode). Mounted within the unit a helium-neon laser projected a beam onto a rotating mirror and thence up through a glass plate on the top surface. The light reflected from the code label on the package and was detected by a photo-diode. A computerized cash register matched the signal from the photo-diode with information in a stored database to determine which product was being scanned.
Spectra Physics and NCR jointly developed the system, and provided the laser scanner and the computerized cash register, respectively. A group called the "Ad Hoc Committee of the Grocery Industry" developed the barcode itself. Organized in 1970 by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., the Ad Hoc Committee consisted of senior executives of leading firms in the grocery industry. The coding system they devised had an enormous impact on a wide range of applications, most notably for retail sales and inventory control.
Currently not on view
Object Name
laser scanner
date made
Spectra-Physics Scanning Systems, Inc.
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
glass (window material)
plastic (overall material)
aluminum (overall material)
copper (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 30 in x 18 in x 12 in; 76.2 cm x 45.72 cm x 30.48 cm
United States: Ohio
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
serial number
Energy & Power
Cash and Credit Registers
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Cash and Credit Registers
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Spectra Physics Scanning Systems Incorporated
Related Publication
Alan Q. Morton. Packaging History: The Emergence of the Uniform Product Code (UPC) in the United States, 1970-75
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

5/7/2015 5:21:21 PM
buddy wright
What was the price of the scanned wrigleys gum?
9/18/2015 9:23:59 AM
Hal Wallace
A price of $1.39 is printed on the package we have (which is not the actual package that was scanned, by the way).
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