The Bar Code Interpreter

The Bar Code Interpreter is an interface which consists of software and hardware. The software runs under Linux and is written in C. The hardware consists of a bar code scanner, a PC, a custom built interface and a relay switch box.

The software will support any bar code scanning system, which transmits the code directly to the computer system. By means of recognition and interpretation, both software and hardware allow other (electrical) devices to respond directly to any arbitrary (non-manipulated) scanned bar codes.

The idea for The Bar Code Interpreter originated from Lauran Schijvens in the year 2000, as a means of using any bar code to generate unexpected mechanical product identification, rather than for economic purposes or database management. The software and custom built interface were developed by Stock at the V2_Lab in Rotterdam. The relay switch box was originally built by Lauran Schijvens and Jacco Schot in 2001. It was a wooden box with 40 electrical sockets. Naturally, any kind of electrical device can be attached to the switch box.

In 2001 The Bar Code Interpreter was presented by Droog Design in the show 010101, Art in Technological Times at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Due to US fire regulations, the original wooden switch box housing was replaced by a metal housing, by the technical staff of the Museum. The installation piece at SFMoMA was designed by Thonic and Ed van Hinte. The Bar Code Interpreter functioned continuously at SFMoMA for 4 months, interacting with more than 2000 visitors a day. Each time a bar code was scanned, the software and interface supplied 4 different pulses to the switch box, allowing an unexpected set of 4 out of the 40 attached electrical devices to respond directly (this out of 10.000 possible different combinations). Each time the same bar code is scanned, the same reaction occurs. Visitors of the show frequently used their drivers license or ID cards to interact, which meant that the interpreter gave a unique response to their unique bar codes.


Bar Code Interpreter by Lauran Schijvens (2001) from V2_ on Vimeo.

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