Barcodes and conspiracy theories together in one sentence – who knew! Surely this cannot be a real thing? Think again! I too thought conspiracy theories had lost steam and died out when people got bored of them around the 80s, but no! Just like high wasted jeans and the Backstreet Boys – they’re back! And that includes the 666 barcodes theory.
Truly one of the most outrageous accusations about the conspiracy surrounding the Satanic number “666” is that this number is quietly concealed in every Universal Product Code generated.
The theory itself, which simmered up close to the time when UPC barcodes and barcode scanners were becoming the common way of keeping track of and selling items in stores, was first coined by Mary Stewart Relfe in her book “The New Money System 666” published in 1982 and finds its basis on a very nifty interpretation of Revelations 13, which mentions the Mark of the Beast and the associated apocalyptic coming of the antichrist and goes as follows;
“He forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark in his right hand or in his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had a mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name”. And what is that number? “Let he that has wisdom count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666”.
In her book, Relfe has managed to write a whopping 50 pages on UPC codes and how they are a symbol for the antichrist and her findings have been repeated far too often in other publications since. Terry Cook in his 1996 publication entitled The Mark of the New World Order said the following:
“. . . the entire system [UPC barcode] is very deceptively designed around the infamous numerical configuration, Biblically known as 666, the mark of the Antichrist or devil (Revelation 13:16-18)..”
What about the construction of the barcode sparked this overzealous theory? Let’s break it down.
The reference these theorists make is to the 3 longer bars in the barcode referred to as the ‘guard bars’. These are slightly longer than the rest of the bars, and are found at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Every barcode has these, they provide a very important function for the scanning of barcodes in that they allow scanners to take note of where the barcode starts and ends, while the middle one provides a separation of the code of the manufacturer and the code of the product. This construction was then twisted by conservative Christians into a magical urban legend that says that these 3 lines all symbolise 6s, and thus every barcode known to man contains a 666. This, of course, is not the case and was actually purely a chance happening when the barcode was developed.
This is how the numbering system of a barcode actually works and why people seem to get confused. The first and last bar guards have a bar, space, bar construction, or a “101”. The middle bar guard’s construction is a little different and goes space, bar, space, bar, space, or “01010” and the number 6 is “1010000”. Keep in mind that strictly speaking a barcode has 7 digits in it with the first and last guard bars only consisting of 3 units and the middle only consisting of 5. Now I know this all sounds very confusing but what you need to take from this is that according to a computer system the number “666” is not always contained somewhere in the UPC code even though from the perspective of a human it might appear that it is there.
The barcode itself in its working form, which was designed by an employee at IBM named George Laurer on a very basic level works like this; an ocular scanner is used and reads what the distance is between each line and each distance matches a number which is then used to recognize the product it symbolises. While designing the code, Laurer did see the potential for some sort of Satanic symbolism to be construed because he could not help but notice that the code bore a fair amount of 6’s, though certainly not the kinds of 6s moaned about. Of course, he did not expect so many people to read so deeply into this.
When asked about the presence of 6s in the code he invented, Laurer said these values were a mere coincidence and allocated “almost arbitrarily” by the mathematician involved, David Savir. He went further to say that the presence of 666 in the barcode numbering system he invented had just as little meaning attached to it as did the coincidence of his full name – George Joseph Laurer – having a 666 construction. Of course, there are some people that will find the fact that his name is constructed in this way to be of extreme importance in the circumstances, people just have an amazing ability to see whatever they want and convince themselves that it is reality.
So there you have it, we have debunked the barcode conspiracy into pure myth! Contrary to popular belief, not all barcodes contain the number 666 and those that do are a product of pure chance. Now you know. But if I haven’t managed to convince you that this is all pure fiction you can always be on the safe side and just never ever buy anything that has a barcode on it (good luck finding anything!).
If you are a local business looking to purchase or register a barcode, here are 2 great companies I found!