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 Post subject: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:01 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
From the Motherboard page of Vice--the story of KarTrak, or ACI:

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/arti ... he-barcode


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:38 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 1885
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Yes, and Trains had articles on this years ago too.

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Steven Harrod
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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 7:37 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 895
Has any museum or other organization preserved one of the scanners, or the manuals and other technical material pertaining to them?

This is up there with documentation for '80s-era locomotive control cards ... perhaps even more significant in the overall history of rail technology evolution.

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R.M.Ellsworth


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 8:47 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8354
Location: Baltimore, MD
As I recall, this topic was covered in a more exhaustive article in American Heritage Invention & Technology Magazine quite a while back, much more authoritative than this quick-hit Internet-attention-span article, which emphasized how this railroad technology led the way for the now-ubiquitous barcodes now seen on everything from groceries to clothes to books to mail to delivered packages.

I second the motion that some examples of this technology be preserved, lest no one believe us when we talk about this history twenty years from now.


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 12:27 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 1885
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Yes, I remember the American Heritage article too.

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Steven Harrod
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Danmarks Tekniske Universitet
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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 1:59 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2076
yeh, the conductor held all the car paperwork, once all that data went electronic, hence the barcodes, now, no conductor, its sent electronicaly, you could have cameras scanning car numbers, no need for a barcode.


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:02 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
Posts: 2091
Location: Northern Illinois
dinwitty wrote:
... you could have cameras scanning car numbers, no need for a barcode.


But cameras means you need a clerk to transcribe the list. That's the point of the RFID tags... Now, no clerks, either.

At the time the ACI was giving the railroads all they wanted; a list in standing order that could be marked up for the hump or switch crew. The scanning technology was outpacing the computer horsepower to do anything useful with the data. Now I assume the data systems automatically add block assignments (and thus track assignments) to the list generated by the RFID scanner.

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Dennis Storzek


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 4:12 pm 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 895
Dennis said

Quote:
"But cameras means you need a clerk to transcribe the list."


You must not have been involved with machine vision after about 1995 or so. There are apps now that do everything required (one is in place at my daughter's school where students can take a camera picture of notes and a system, combined computer analysis and human standby personnel, provides a free transcription). Several of the trade magazines I receive have monthly updates of 'state of the art' of machine vision and sensor fusion; expect the equipment and programming capabilities to expand much more with the autonomous-vehicle craze.

Yes, there needs to be much more security and access control and 'anti-cracking' measures, but actual industry professionals have known how to do this effectively in a railroad context for decades.

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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 6:07 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 1885
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
the problem with the barcodes was they did not read reliably when dirty. I think oscillations of the cars were a problem too.

RFID is radio waves, not sensitive to dirt or car position. AND, it can be read at high speed, so now they have readers all over the place scanning trains as they pass at speed.

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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 7:37 pm 

Joined: Mon Jul 11, 2005 9:23 am
Posts: 128
Location: willow grove pa
I worked with a computer company (Decision Data) that had a data storage device built for the US Army and Air Force to Mil Specifications, it was a case hardened device. We were selling these to supermarket chains for internal store systems as a buffer to the primary system.
Some resourceful sales person convinced the Product Manager that it would be great for railroad storage of bar codes data on rail cars. We were a sub to the prime contractor.
Well we installed these with another company at several location, base tests were fine except we had a large failure rate after a few weeks. I installed sock meters in three units, we were mystified as to the readings...worse than a drop test. I sat all night with a unit and found the source of the shock..people were kicking, hitting and just outright beating the unit to death. One additional failure point was in coal country....boards would burn out at a pace faster than we had spares. Coal dust would penetrate anything and everything.
My last input on that program was to pull the units...cost and employee "contact" damage sunk that Idea. Just to early to the computer game for the employees. Device could handle a B-52 but not a train!


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1483
Location: Southern California
softwerkslex wrote:
the problem with the barcodes was they did not read reliably when dirty. I think oscillations of the cars were a problem too.
Long after the railroads gave up on this system, I recall seeing it being used on grocery store delivery trailers. The trailer vans were kept clean and the system probably tracked when the trailers entered and left the warehouse site.

I recall being told, way back in the 70's, that the developer of the ACI code system tried by the railroads was a member of Seashore Trolley Museum.

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Brian Norden


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 Post subject: Re: How Railroads Invented (And Discarded) Barcode
PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2017 1:35 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 11:05 pm
Posts: 13
My real job is Library Circulation, so I really enjoyed this article!
In a library setting, we live (or die) by barcodes, and the up and coming library technology is just as the railroads figured out: RFID!

-Cp.


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