Is the era of the barcode over? Not yet.

Hanna Rosin interviews Saahil Desai on The Last Days of the Barcode, a ubiquitous feature of late 20th and early 21st century consumption that is supposedly headed for retirement. It's not that things don't need to be numbered and beeped, of course; the numbers will just be invisible and the beeps inaudible, so we don't have to think about them.

Desai: So, basically, the invention of the barcodes is delightfully '70s and terrible '70s at the same time. Right? So they couldn't decide between the IBM zebra-stripe barcode and all the other various barcodes that we've been talking about. And, you know, this was a really divisive, ongoing discussion. And to sort of lighten the mood, one of the core figures in this collection of various, like, grocery-store executives decided to take the whole committee to see Deep Throat at a San Francisco porn theater, basically. And it was soon after that they decided to pick the IBM barcode. As if the invention of the barcode couldn't get any more '70s, I think this is sort of the cherry on top.

Mandatory barcodes on everything was always trivially creepy. Covers of magazines ruined by them for decades! They might soon be hidden from sight in consumer-facing places but barcodes are going no-where anywhere they're useful. What's your universal product code?