Sometimes the brilliant is simple

Simplicity is hard.  For example, the bar code you see on everything is a simple way to uniquely identify something.  


It is used on hundreds of millions of items every year, yet it solved a problem that retailers had encountered for years, how to efficiently and accurately identify products.  I’m writing about this because of the recent passing of N. Joseph Woodland.  Don’t know who he is?

He invented it. How?

What would happen, Mr. Woodland wondered one day, if Morse code, with its elegant simplicity and limitless combinatorial potential, were adapted graphically? He began trailing his fingers idly through the sand.

“What I’m going to tell you sounds like a fairy tale,” Mr. Woodland told Smithsonian magazine in 1999. “I poked my four fingers into the sand and for whatever reason — I didn’t know — I pulled my hand toward me and drew four lines. I said: ‘Golly! Now I have four lines, and they could be wide lines and narrow lines instead of dots and dashes.’ ”

Read the rest of Mr. Woodland’s incredible story in the NY Times, and remember that sometimes the brilliant is simple, just look at the lines you have drawn in the sand.



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