And this was reflected in the shops, too. Slowly at first, the bar code began to make its presence felt. Sainsbury's, for instance, installed its first bar code scanning tills in 1982, and gradually these were rolled out throughout its stores. A great friend of mine who worked at a large Sainsbury's store out in the sticks in the mid-1980s, told me the story of the scanner tills arrival at her store:
"The beeping noise drove us all bats at first - and you could hear it in your head when you got home at night. I think it was louder with the early tills. Of course, now we take it as a part of everyday life, but I got married in 1986, shortly after the new tills arrived at the store I worked at, and I remember, on my honeymoon, thinking I heard a beep in the hotel bedroom at a very, well... to avoid being crude I'll call it a very 'romantic' moment. I think I was a bit befuddled with wine, because I interrupted proceedings to ask my new hubby: 'Was that a beep?' Good job he worked at Sainsbury's too, because he understood perfectly!"
Johnny Ball's Think Box, 1982. Look - no bar code!
Incidentally, I was a great bookworm, and found the arrival of bar codes on book covers in the early 1980s positively hideous. I loved (and still do love) books, and bar codes printed on the back of each new purchase looked ugly and alien to me. And, at that time, I couldn't understand just what purpose they could have! Of course, the bar codes needed to be in place on merchandise before shops could invest in the equipment to use them.