Barcode turns 50

Circuit Break Podcast #404

The Barcode is 50 With its Creator, Paul V. McEnroe

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November 14, 2023, Episode #404

Parker and Stephen speak with Paul V. McEnroe, an award-winning engineer who developed multiple state-of-the-art technologies during his long career, including more than two decades in leadership roles at IBM. McEnroe is best known for his primary role in developing the Universal Product Code (UPC), the barcode used on every product in supermarkets and the retail industry, and the scanners that read them. In 2023, the barcode celebrates its 50th anniversary but now Paul is setting the record straight on the real story with his new book, THE BARCODE - How a Team Created One of the World's Most Ubiquitous Technologies.

The discussion also covered subjects like being car nuts and Paul’s past ownership of a Buick Torpedo, a TR3, a Porsche Super 90, and a Jag XK150S Roadster, his apparent aptitude for being a mortician, control units and mainframes, where lasers were sourced from at the time, buying monkeys from Africa, owning the patent on the pistol grip scanner, what to make of QR codes, and much more!

Paul V. McEnroe

Paul V. McEnroe

About the Hosts

Parker Dillmann
  Parker Dillmann

Parker is an Electrical Engineer with backgrounds in Embedded System Design and Digital Signal Processing. He got his start in 2005 by hacking Nintendo consoles into portable gaming units. The following year he designed and produced an Atari 2600 video mod to allow the Atari to display a crisp, RF fuzz free picture on newer TVs. Over a thousand Atari video mods where produced by Parker from 2006 to 2011 and the mod is still made by other enthusiasts in the Atari community.

In 2006, Parker enrolled at The University of Texas at Austin as a Petroleum Engineer. After realizing electronics was his passion he switched majors in 2007 to Electrical and Computer Engineering. Following his previous background in making the Atari 2600 video mod, Parker decided to take more board layout classes and circuit design classes. Other areas of study include robotics, microcontroller theory and design, FPGA development with VHDL and Verilog, and image and signal processing with DSPs. In 2010, Parker won a Ti sponsored Launchpad programming and design contest that was held by the IEEE CS chapter at the University. Parker graduated with a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Spring of 2012.

In the Summer of 2012, Parker was hired on as an Electrical Engineer at Dynamic Perception to design and prototype new electronic products. Here, Parker learned about full product development cycles and honed his board layout skills. Seeing the difficulties in managing operations and FCC/CE compliance testing, Parker thought there had to be a better way for small electronic companies to get their product out in customer's hands.

Parker also runs the blog, longhornengineer.com, where he posts his personal projects, technical guides, and appnotes about board layout design and components.

Stephen Kraig
  Stephen Kraig

Stephen Kraig is a component engineer working in the aerospace industry. He has applied his electrical engineering knowledge in a variety of contexts previously, including oil and gas, contract manufacturing, audio electronic repair, and synthesizer design. A graduate of Texas A&M, Stephen has lived his adult life in the Houston, TX, and Denver, CO, areas.

Stephen has never said no to a project. From building guitar amps (starting when he was 17) to designing and building his own CNC table to fine-tuning the mineral composition of the water he uses to brew beer, he thrives on testing, experimentation, and problem-solving. Tune into the podcast to learn more about the wacky stuff Stephen gets up to.

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