I know several people have written about this book (Code) already. I started and stopped several of the books on this list, but this one is simply amazing. You should all definitely READ THIS BOOK. It breaks down how code (and computers) work in a very simple and easy to understand way. Each chapter builds on what has come before, and a very lucid and detailed map of our modern information age slowly unfolds.
I’d like to focus in on the section explaining how UPC bar codes work. I was really captivated when I learned that those black bars and white spaces in the bar codes are actually binary (1’s & 0’s). In the book the author used the UPC code from the Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup can as an example:
Take a look at that bar code, hopefully you’ll notice that the bars and the spaces are all different widths. When you see a larger bar, that is just smaller bars stacked beside each other. The largest bar is actually four small bars put together, and likewise, the largest space is four spaces put together. Each single width bar is equal to a 1 and each single width space is equal to a 0. If you have a large, 4 bar width, bar, that translates to four 1’s, and again, likewise for the spaces, but they would be four 0’s.
When reading about the bar codes I started thinking about what kind of art I could make out of this binary information. I thought that it might be nice to translate the image of a product into it’s own bar code.
I started with the image of a Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup can and turned it on it’s side, so it would be a better width for a bar code.
I then downsampled, and afterwords upsampled, the image (thanks Mark Kleeb) to smear the image into lines.
This is already starting to look like a bar code, but I really wanted to represent the actual bar code with the image. So after a very long time encoding all the details of the UPC algorithm and analyzing the colors and brightness of the image I came up with my own artistic version of the Chicken Noodel Soup bar code. It’s not exact, I’m using different (and multiple) colors for different single width bars beside each other, and each strip changes color a little from top to bottom. I don’t think it will scan, but it definitely looks like the bar code.
I’ll put my Processing code and more explaination up on my blog when I get a chance. For now, I’d like to hear from you about how’d you use bar codes, or binary, in an artistic way.