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Some See the Beast in the Bar Code

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“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”

These words from Revelation 13:16-17 have set off more debate, more end-times theorizing and more mathematical finagling than one can process. Or scan, in the case of the beast in the bar code.

The sub-dermal microchip from Applied Digital Solutions has ignited more “last days” mania. (See related story in today’s EthicsDaily.com line-up.) But bar code bashing has a healthy history, going back to at least 1982, with the publication of The New Money System 666, by Mary Stewart Relfe. Relfe claimed that the “mark” mentioned in Revelation was the bar code.

Bar codes are “machine-readable symbols made of patterns of black and white bars and stripes,” according to Azalea Software, Inc., publisher of bar code fonts. Almost any item bought at a retail store carries a bar code, which carries data read by the bar code scanner.

Histories of bar code development differ, but most attribute the push for bar code technology to grocery stores’ need for a fast checkout process. After years of various technologies, IBM’s “Universal Product Code” took the stage in 1973 and remains there today.

However, the UPC symbol, or bar code, has set off more than department store scanners. Relfe’s book is just one example of the attention end-timers have given “the mark.”

Dial-the-Truth Ministries (www.av1611.org) has a “666 Watch” that deals—at length—with bar code technology and the mark of the beast.

Its discussion concludes that bar codes are “probably not” the mark of the beast, but they are certainly “paving the road” for the mark because they have been integral in shaping the digital age that is Satan’s handiwork.
Elsewhere on the site, however, Dial-the-Truth Ministries claims that “the number ‘666’ is hidden in every UPC bar code!”

It adds: “Something else mysterious has appeared. In the last few years, some UPC codes have appeared with additional boxes underneath the bar code. Beside the boxes are 2 letters – the letter F and the letter H! According to researchers, they stand for forehead or hand. And the purchaser must have the required mark in their forehead or hand before purchasing.”

Greater Things (www.greaterthings.com) takes on bar codes too, seeing 666 in not only bar codes, but in the name “Al Gore” when it’s rendered in ASCII (a computer code that represents English characters as numbers).

Eric Jewell, writing at www.rense.com, has claimed that bar codes aren’t the mark of the beast. They’re just a stepping-stone to the “bar-coded, implantable computer chip” that is the mark.

The 666-bar code controversy stems from the way certain bars—which technically represent the digit 6—appear on bar codes. Those who see Armageddon in the bars see three sets of these bars and therefore see three sixes: 666.

George Laurer, the man who developed the UPC symbol for IBM, is sick of the accusations. “As of November 2000, I will no longer respond to questions concerning this subject,” he wrote on his personal AOL Web site.

Laurer, who is retired, wrote that there is “nothing sinister” about the UPC, and that if anyone sees 666 in the code, it’s merely a coincidence, “like the fact that my first, middle, and last name all have 6 letters.”

“For more hogwash about 666 implications of the U.P.C., government form numbers, other publications, codes and the like, see Mary Sterwart Relfe’s book ‘The New Money System,'” he wrote, referring to another of Relfe’s books. “Such hype about the U.P.C. has been around since 1973.”

In fact, the alleged sixes seen in the code are “guard bars” or synch marks that help a bar code scanner interpret the data contained in the code.
Furthermore, the UPC is just one of many bar code styles. Other styles, or “symbologies,” include EAN-13, Bookland, ISSN, Code 39, Code 128 and POSTNET. There are also “zero-suppressed” bar codes that appear on smaller products like Coke cans.

In the vast majority of these other bar codes, the format which appears to give the 666 is gone, booting the beast out of the bar code.

Cliff Vaughn is BCE’s associate director.

Learn more about reading barcodes at How Stuff Works.
Visit the Uniform Code Council