Thursday, 5 January 2012

QR Codes - a ready reckoner

I've just noted a tweet from Jill Ball (@geniaus) of the Geniaus blog in which she stated that she had come across a post that explained QR codes to her. The site was and describes how the National Museums of Scotland have just added 26 QR codes to various exhibits in their collection.

Here, just hauld yer horses there two minutes mister - QR what?!

QR codes - Quick Response codes - are the funny wee barcode images that you have probably noticed taking over the world in recent months, and which seem to have no logical, practical, and possibly even moral use whatsoever! They are the barcode equivalent of the Borg, assimilating everything, and have probably bugged you more than helped you - if the article is anything to go by, they've also totally confused you also as to their purpose but you haven't let on as you don't want to sound like a Luddite. But they are on the increase - so here's a quick pulling together of what they are, how to create them and how to read them.

First I will explain what they are and how to use them....  Actually, forget that - watch this wee video instead...!

To read a QR code you need to download an app to your phone or tablet, as the woman says. I have just downloaded one called Scan onto my iPad from iTunes - totally free. When I open it and point the tablet camera at the QR code of interest, it instantly gives a satisfying "beep" and takes me to the website of interest. I don't even have to press a button, it does it automatically - no typing in of a web address, no looking up favourites, the whole process is instant. Both Android based and Apple based devices can use them.

It is equally easy to make a QR code. I've just found one website at which simply asks you to type in a web address and it instantly comes up with a wee diagram for it. So I had a go, and this is one I've just created for this blog:

Dead easy. Beep your wee tablet scanner at that, and you'll be instantly taken to err... this blog - but you get the idea!

Why is it important? Note the question asked by a reader at the end of the National Museums of Scotland article:

So does this technology mean that I could write a straightforward novel but have codes on some pages for people to explore the background/story/references further? Like a techie kind of index?

The answer was yes. Museums are doing it, magazines and books may end up doing it and more - imagine a family tree diagram where after the name, birthdate, marriage date and date of death there was a funny wee barcode like one above - one which provides a link to the entire story of that person's life.

A bit sci-fi? Have a look at this article - - which describes how an Israeli man attached a QR code to his mother's gravestone in July last year. Or to read an American equivalent.

Something new to get used to!

(With thanks to @geniaus)

UPDATE: The Guild of One Name Studies has commented on Facebook, whilst sharing this post, that it has in fact just included a QR code for the first time within its current journal, JOONS. (With thanks to the Guild)



  1. And it is Dead Easy - I just used QR Droid on my Android device to take a picture of your QR Code and was directed to on my tablet's browser.

    Got to love technology.

  2. I experimented with different ways of using QR codes last year for business cards and decided on using the code to direct people to my page. That way they have all my contact and social media details, which is impossible to fit on a small card otherwise.

  3. That's a good idea Valmay - may tinker when I need to order new cards!


  4. If you have an page (which is free) they currently have an offer on where you can order 50 free business cards that will include your QR code. Postage is £3.90. My son and I ordered some we are both quite pleased with them.

  5. I had a QR link to my blog as my twitter profile picture for a while but I'm not sure how successful it was.

    Oddly, whilst visting family graves over the Christmas holiday's I told my partner that when I died I wanted a QR code (or its future equivilant) added to my gravestone that linked to my blog so I'm glad to see I'm not the only 'odd' one out there!