In this Peter Dibble video, he looks at the history of KarTrak, the first barcode system. Developed in the late 1960s, KarTrak consisted of color-barred plates on the sides of railroad cars that could automatically be scanned and the cars identified and tracked as the train moved passed an optical scanner on the side of the tracks.
The system was effective when first deployed, saved a lot of human labor, and avoided a lot of human error in reading and conveying the ID numbers of the cars, but weather effects on the retroreflective plates eventually caused the KarTrak system to become error-prone. By the late 70s, the system was abandoned. KarTrak barcodes can still sometimes be seen on older rail cars to this day.
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