The Bar Code
The Bar Code
A Micro-technical Force of Change
This chapter explains how digital technologies and information management tools transformed the movements of material objects and reshaped food distribution industries. By the 1970s, manufacturing corporations had already entered the age of automation, but the retailing side of the food system continued to face profitability issues as a high-volume but low-tech sector. Because of the supermarket’s high-volume and low-margin merchandising platform, different arms of the food industry negotiated new shared uses of technical devices, such as bar codes, optical laser scanners, and computer data processors. The new sociotechnical machinery eventually transcended the supermarket by spreading the information management tools into corporate discount retailers and pharmacies. This new age of information and product mobility broke down boundaries between territories, merged the supermarket with the general discount store in the creation of big box stores, and forced supermarkets into another round of profitability constraints.
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