QR Codes Saved 2021

But Where Did They Come From?

If you’ve been to a restaurant in the last year, you’ve probably seen at least once a card with a small black and white box on the table instead of a menu. You probably know what to do in that scenario: You pull out your smartphone, scan the QR code (aka quick response code), and scroll through the menu on your screen. Then, you order from there — all without touching a paper menu or spreading a single germ.

For people who love going out to eat, QR codes pretty much saved 2021. They’ve made the dining experience feel safer. But where did they come from? Until now, QR codes have been more or less under the radar — but they’re a lot older than you think.

The Birth of the QR Code

QR codes were invented all the way back in 1994 by Masahiro Hara of the Japanese company Denso Wave. His goal was to find an alternative to the barcode, which can only hold about 20 characters of information and isn’t compatible with Japanese Kanji and Kana characters.

In a way, Hara’s invention was a huge success. QR codes were revolutionary. They can hold more information than regular barcodes (7,000 characters vs. 20, including Kanji!), and you can scan them 10 times faster. However, most people didn’t hear about QR codes for years after they were created. They stayed a secret of Japanese automobile manufacturing.

QR Codes Go National, Then Global

In 2002, QR codes finally left the factory floor and spread throughout Japan. But it took years for the rest of the world to adopt them. Smartphones and apps — which barely existed when QR codes were invented — needed to catch up. Fortunately, they did, and today QR codes are used worldwide for everything from renting scooters to ordering food in restaurants.

The Next Step for QR

COVID-19 made QR codes more popular than ever. According to a Mobileiron study, more than 36% of smartphone users in Europe and the UK use QR codes at least once a week. If you’re not already familiar with QR codes, now’s the time to visit QRCode.com to learn how to use them before they kill off the barcode for good.

-Randy Sklar


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