Product codes

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Because Hugin had a concentric-circle bar code system, I was elected to the European committee that considered the approach to be used for the Standard Product Numbering Symbol (SPNS), aka the European Article Number (EAN) or Universal Product Code (UPC). The committee consisted of retailers, equipment manufacturers and food producers.

EAN barcode

I flew out to an SPNS meeting in Amsterdam and arrived at almost the same time as my colleague from Sweden, Stig Fack. As I waited for my suitcase I saw him through a glass wall at the airport and he kept putting up two fingers of one hand and one from the other. It meant nothing to me and I had to wait until he caught up with me in the process.

England had played Czechoslovakia at Bratislava in a EUFA Qualifying Group the night before, and we had lost 1-2. It should have been played the previous night but heavy fog had stopped play. It was a pity the weather cleared up. Stig was enervated by our failure. The Swedes watched live matches from England every weekend and knew our teams and players.

England had gone ahead with a Mick Channon goal (his tenth for England). As we got into a taxi, the Dutch cabbie took up the tale, pointing out that Ray Clemence, our goalie, had a poor match – when the Czech goalie had been sent off after 32 minutes! The result meant it was likely we would fail to qualify for Euro ’76 – and sure enough, we didn’t. Of course, none of us expected that CZ would go on to beat the Netherlands after extra time in the semis and then beat Germany in the final – on penalties! –not quite so shameful.

I made a mental note to avoid travelling to Europe on days following an England match!

ASIDE: That year we holidayed in Sardinia – and I might have died there. We became friendly with an older couple (we were late 20s and they was early 50s). We competed at volleyball, shuffleboard and all else, and decided to share a car hire to see more of the island. On the north-western tip we stopped at a spectacular beach, its white sands turning the sea turquoise. As we set down our gear, he challenged me to swim to the island that appeared to be just off the beach. He stole a headstart hitting the water perhaps ten paces ahead of me and I tried but failed to close that gap.

We both came to realise there was a strong current whipping from east to west and it was all we could do to swim into it and hold our position relative to the beach. We both took turns to float and wave our arms to the beach but our wives just waved back, not realising our problem. After a rest we concluded that we should swim with the current but try to cut across to the far tip of the island. We had worked out that if we missed it the next landfall would be the Balearics, hundreds of miles distant.

A herd of sea urchins
(yes that is their collective noun)
With great relief we just managed to hit the westernmost point of the island where I promptly stood on a sea urchin! We wandered back to the easternmost point, collecting flotsam and jetsam such as netting, footballs and cork and constructed a small raft, which we launched from there. We finally hit the rocks at the extreme western point of the beach, in my case to hobble back to our families. We were very lucky. The hotel nurse extracted as many of the spines as she could after soaking my foot in a bidet, but even many months later I would brake in my car and discover a new piece of spine.

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