071: What’s with all the dots? QR Codes Explained, including creating your own QR Codes.

hey there do-it-yourself technicians! Have you seen those square dot patterns attached to buildings and manuals and signs and things around the place? Well, these little fellas are called QR codes and they can be really handy. Stay tuned to find out more!

Quick response codes or QR codes are a type of matrix bar-code that was first designed in Japan in 1994 by a company called Denso wave. Toyota subsidiary that used them to track automotive parts. The design, especially the three big squares up in the corners, allowed for high-speed scanning and scanning at odd angles which were really useful for parts going past on a conveyor belt.

Soon the technology moved past just automation and manufacturing and out into the mainstream. Outside of factories far and away the biggest use of QR codes is linked to URLs or website addresses. Although you can also use them to store payment information, virtual business cards, Wi-Fi logins and much more. One of the great features of QR codes is error correction, which allows them to still be read even if they’re damaged. For that reason, I can stick my face in the middle of a QR code like this, and you can actually still read it although it will just link back to this episode so there’s probably no point scanning it.

So how do you read a QR code? on the iPhone, it’s as simple as opening the camera app and pointing it at the QR code. A box will pop up at the top of the screen giving you the link and you can tap that and off you go. Other phone types require a specialised app which you can find by searching QR code in your app store of choice, although it seems fairly likely it will be added to future versions of the Android camera app as well.

Now that we know how the next question is why? Lots of reasons! for example, I have a heart rate monitor (for exercise) that connects to my smartphone. In the box that it came with are the QR codes to go straight to the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store to download the app that connects them. Really simple. Sometimes QR codes can provide links to online manuals or help forums for devices or even more information about a location on a self-guided tourist walk. I’m currently writing a PC troubleshooting booklet and it will have a plethora of links via QR code to various websites and videos including this one so people with a printed copy can scan their way directly to a link rather than having to type in a web address.

I’ve also seen them used in educational settings where a teacher printed out six QR codes and made them into a dice which the students then rolled and picked a different activity based on which QR code came up top.

Companies in Japan and the USA are even making tombstones with QR codes built into them so that loved ones can scan a link and see a website dedicated to the person who is passed away.

Of course, with technology, there is a downside as well not all QR codes are perfectly harmless, there have been codes found with links to malware that may attack your phone or attempt to send a premium SMS message, costing you money. That said these sorts of issues are very few and far between and quickly shut down soon after they found. So please don’t let them discourage you from using this wonderful technology.

If you want to create QR codes of your own there are a bunch of websites that will allow you to do it for free I use qrcode-monkey.com I like it because it’s free, it allows me to customize the QR code in a whole bunch of different ways, and it’s really easy to use! For a web link, all you do is put in the URL you want to link to create the customizations and hit generate QR code and you can then download the PNG file of the code and print it out or put it in whatever document you need to. – alternatively you can download SVG, PDF, or EPS files with your code depending on what sort of use you want to put them to. Each of those formats will allow you to create giant images without it going weird. There are also tabs at the top for creating a dozen or more different types of QR codes from email, SMS, Wi-Fi, virtual business cards, and Facebook links.

Have you seen a QR code used in an unusual way? Or created one yourself? Let us know in the comments below so we can check it out.

The Tech Doctor Network exists to help you become your own technician and navigate your technology maze. There’s a link down here to subscribe to the YouTube channel,There’s also a link up here to subscribe to a weekly newsletter to find out more about what’s happening in the tech world. There are also some videos here and here that you might not have seen before.

Thank you so much for reading and have a great day!

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