Although a barcode system was used in the U.S. as early as the 1880's, Norman Woodland and Bernard Silver patented the modern day version in 1969. The inventors based their barcode on extending the dots from Morse Code into lines and later sold their patent to Philco who then sold it to RCA.

RCA demonstrated the first barcode scanning system at a grocery industry show where visitors were given gift cans that would be scanned for prizes.
Interestingly, Woodland worked for IBM
and offered to sell them his patent. IBM