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Did you know that a 4,000-year-old game inspired QR codes?

Updated March 8, 2024
~ minute read
Ancient chinese gentleman play a game of go

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We all Know What QR Codes Are.

QR codes have become increasingly popular in the areas where technology and people intersect. You’ll find them everywhere, from entertaining interactive promotions to contact-free menus at your favorite Ramen restaurant. Interestingly, QR codes have a rich history dating back to the 90s, and a Japanese developer who was inspired by the game Go. Despite their humble beginnings, QR codes have become a versatile tool with many practical uses in our daily lives.


Go board game with qr code overlayed


What is Go?

Let me elaborate on the fascinating game of Go. It is a board game that originated in China over 4,000 years ago and has spread worldwide since then. The Go board is a 19×19 grid with black and white stones scattered across its expanse. Players individually place stones on the board, trying to surround and capture their opponent’s stones while protecting their own. It is similar to a game called Connect Four but on a larger, flat surface.

The profound intricacy of a Go board bears a striking resemblance to the complex connections found within QR codes. In many ways, it is akin to a dance of patterns and shapes, requiring a potent combination of strategic foresight and tactical understanding. With a rich history spanning centuries and a gameplay that is both challenging and rewarding, Go continues to inspire and captivate players from all corners of the globe. If you want to experience the challenge and strategy of this game, try playing it with a friend!


Who Created QR Codes?

Back in 1994, a team of talented developers was tasked with creating a new barcode that could fit more information, as the humble barcode was limited to a single direction of code and could only store around 20 characters of information. The man who led this team is named Masahiro Hara. He and his development team worked for the Japanese corporation Denso Wave, owned by none other than the automotive company Toyota Motor Corp. They needed to figure out how to cram more data into a scannable sticker to help move and track automobile parts during the assembly and transportation of various Toyota Products.


The Creator of the QR Code had an Epiphany.

Masahiro Hara was taking a break and playing a game of GO. While playing, Masahiro thought of a way to use a grid system to store and share large amounts of information with a single code. Unlike barcodes, the grid-based code can store data in different directions, angles, and distances. This realization helped speed up production processes. Masahiro worked with his team at Denso Wave and successfully brought his idea to life by creating the QR Code (Quick Response Code).


An Opportunity to Control the Flow of Data.

Denso Wave made a groundbreaking move by offering free QR code technology to the public while selling scanner technology to read them. Their initial plan was to use QR codes for industrial applications, such as tracking vehicle parts during manufacturing or inventory management. However, their widespread adoption among small businesses and individuals surprised them. Today, QR codes have become universally recognizable and are used for various purposes, ranging from making payments to accessing websites. They can be found on everything from business cards to billboards. QR codes’ simplicity and versatility have made them an increasingly popular technology, and their adoption is expected to continue growing.


Microsoft – A brief history of QR codes

Britannica – QR Code

Britannica – Go

QRCode – History



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