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I've encountered lots of people and some other sources that claim that every bar-code contains the number 666 and is therefore "The Number of the Beast"?

The first thing a scanner looks for when reading a retail bar code is the number 666! Only after finding this number can it go on to read the rest of the code!

Do they actually all contain 666?

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An equally interesting angle of attack would be trace the history of what number the number of the beast is supposed to be. There is evidence, not quite definitive but still strong, that the original manuscript of John gave the number as 616. –  Scott Hamilton Apr 24 '11 at 18:46
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In addition to the dispute over just what the number is supposed to be, there is also the commonly-felt-by-biblical-scholars notion that the number mentioned has nothing whatever to do with the Devil, the Antichrist, or anything of the sort. It's just Jewish numerology for "Nero", a "beast" of a fellow regarding Christian persecution. –  M. Werner Apr 24 '11 at 18:56
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And in addition to that still: what is the beast, the devil, antichrist, and what have you, even supposed to mean? –  fireeyedboy Apr 27 '11 at 19:01
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2 Answers 2

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The claim is based on the assumption that the digit 6 is encoded as 101 (bar-space-bar), then the longer guard bars at the left, right, and middle can be interpreted as 666.

In reality, every digit is encoded as seven bits. The digit 6 is encoded as 1010000 or as the inverse 0101111. The guard bars are encoded as 101, 01010, and 101.

So although the guard bars look like part of one of the encodings for the digit 6, they aren't really the same thing.

Links

Wikipedia's Universal Product Code

From the website of George J. Laurer, Inventor of the UPC:

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Good answer! I like to point out explicitly that this about the common retailer barcode UPC (USA) and equally valid for the similar European EAN (also used in Japan but then called JAN). There are a lot of other barcodes which don't have such guards bars. So the part "every bar-code contains the number 666" of the question is not true in general anyway. –  Martin Scharrer Mar 26 '12 at 13:15
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Well, first one must settle on whether 666 or 616 is the number of the beast. If the "number of the beast" is actually 616, then the entire premise goes out the window since the assertion is that each double set of bars represents a 6. That would mean that the two center long bars are either a 6 or a 1. And if people are looking for something, they will find it. One can claim that the word "giggle" has the number of the beast! giggle has the number of the beast!

That said, one can find numerous barcodes that do not contain enough digits to make either number of the beast, but then you can make any other numerology number out of them.

Here is one that dismisses that urban legend: Barcode without "number of the beast"

(This comes from the CD by Elly Nieman, Circus Princes)

And I'm sure that you could find more on any trip to the grocery store. I just picked up a can of beans from the cupboard that didn't have a single 6 in it!

Even though the question was about the claim of 666 in barcodes, if you are interested in the history of barcodes and how they work, you can check out this "How stuff works" article. This webpage states that The UCC (formerly The Uniform Product Code Council, Inc.) is responsible for issuing product numbers, specification, etc.

If you are interested in barcodes and their development, this page has a link to a PDF paper on the subject.

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Haha, 657 + 1+ 1 + 1 + 3 + the 3 from the beginning = ? :) In numerology, you just combine Numbers at will with operations at will, and interpret it this way or that way. It fit's always. 6*111 = 666, 657-38-3 = 616. Note beside: There is no such thing as a beast. 2nd note: My number (000, the number unknown) is included as well. :) –  user unknown Apr 24 '11 at 20:41
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Andrew, that wasn't the question. It was whether barcodes always have 666 in them (which they don't). But I did add in a link to barcodes in general. –  Larian LeQuella Apr 25 '11 at 0:07
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Well, it's a silly assertion, so just one counter example should be enough. The picture is a bar code that was found on the internet (I did add what product it was from for verification). –  Larian LeQuella Apr 25 '11 at 13:47
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Okay, I have clarified my answer a bit. Again, this type of question is hard to really answer because it's a situation of seeing what you want to see. Basically making stuff up with no basis in reality. As someone once said, science is hindered by the fact that they can't just make stuff up. –  Larian LeQuella Apr 25 '11 at 22:09
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@Larian in your example barcode, the guard bars (longer bars) at both ends and in the middle supposedly do encode the number 666, as the legend goes. See Bavi's answer for why this isn't actually a true encoding of that number. –  jozzas Jun 15 '11 at 6:39
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