Complicated UPC code

It cannot help UPC is much more complicated structure than the EAN code, from the process of its pioneering establishment.

Four administrative organizations

In case of JAN in Japan, The administrative organization of code is concentrated at The Distribution System Research Institute, DCC, which is auxiliary organ of MITI (the Ministry of International Trade and Industry). UPC code is managed by three following organizations, and the coupons, with its NS (number system = at the 1st digit).

  1. NS = 0, 6, 7
    UPCC (Universal Product Code Concil )

  2. NS = 3 (the 1st digit of laveler code is 0 -- 7)
    NDC (National Drug Code )

  3. NS = 3 (the 1st digit of laveler code is 8 or 9)
    HRI (Health Related Item Code )

  4. NS = 5
    Coupon (discount/claim ticket printed in the newspaper, leaflet, etc.)

** in this page, we will illustrate NS0, 6, 7

Complicated Versions

Various versions of various lengths are established, to incorporate various contents to the UPC symbol system.

  1. A version
    12-digit type which is generally used.

  2. Add-on version
    A version affixed 2 or 5-digit supplementary code.

  3. E version
    8-digit version, suppressed from A version.

  4. D version
    Combined versions, 14 to 32 digits length.

** in this page, we will illustrate only 1, 2 and 3.

* UPC A version

** on the summary of symbols, see EAN

Composition of Codes


UPC E version


E version is used in these 3 cases following:

UPC add-on version


appended 2 or 5 digits of supplementary code after the A or E version.

Supplementary code is used for indicating the price of products, issue month of magazine, etc.

UPC D version

It is merely used practically since better barcode standards, such as CODE-39, etc. are established. So we will show only examples, without detail instruction.






<<Editor's note>>

When I was editing my book "Barcode Hayawakari (A Quick Guide to Barcode)", I suffered many hardships around UPC. It is too much complicated anyway.

But, before complaining too much complicated E version, or D version, think about in the beginning of the practical use of the barcode, so many industries tried and tried hard to use the UPC symbol, which was only one of available means, in various way, and thought how it can be used conveniently. it reveals a hard time in the early days.

We cannot reward the founders' effort, if we think ill of it simply, "The length is different", "cannot use EAN in America", or abuse it, "it's so patchy a code system"...

Jobs to make compatibility between UPC and EAN is proceeding and to be finished by 2005; I think, studying again this UPC, and we might find the origin, or mission of barcode...

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