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QR Codes

qrcode code for this site's url
One of the things I'd never seen before I went to Japan were strange blocks of black and white dots that seemed to be in lots of magazines and adverts there. Eventually, I found out that they were QR codes, or 2-dimensional barcodes.

These can hold up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters compared to the 12 digits that conventional (UPC) barcodes can hold. Many of the camera phones available in Japan are able to read these just by pointing the camera at them, and they then decode the data which often includes website addresses to click through to, or company information to store in the address book. This site will automatically encode any information, such as your contact details, into a QR code that can then be placed onto a business card or website. Up to 30% of the code can be damaged or obscured and it'll still work. It seems like a really good way to store and transfer contact information and they've been used in Japan for years - I'm just surprised that European phones aren't equipped to handle them.

QR codes Wikipedia page
QR code reader for Mac OSX in Japanese
QR code reader in java
UPC barcode reader for Symbian series 60 phones
Barcode designed as pizza graphic

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