Esserian, Inventor of the First Handheld
Barcode Reader, Passes Away
Esserian of Lincoln, Mass., formerly of
Cambridge and Lexington, passed away on
March 20 with his loving family by his side.
Beloved father of John A. Esserian and his
wife Jennifer, Pamela Esserian, Melanie
Jandl, and her husband James. Proud and
cherished grandfather of John and Robert
Esserian, Samantha and Jillian Jandl. Loving
brother of Gloria Kapalis, Helen Esserian,
and the late Madeleine Koshgarian. Many
special nieces, nephews, cousins, and
long-time companion the late Marie Burch.
Esserian was born July 15, 1928 to Arika and
Jack in Watertown, Mass. His formative
interests included Cartography, Classical
Music, Fine Art, and Middle East History. In
his Senior Honor’s year at Watertown High,
Armen authored La Mer, a compilation of
oceanic poetry paired with charming
marine-themed sketches. This hard covered
treasure of creativity was inspired by
Debussy’s symphony, “La Mer”.
awarded a full ROTC scholarship to attend
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Impeccably timed, his graduating class of
1950 was the final eligible year of
acceptance for WWII recruits. Armen’s path
to becoming an engineer was afoot. While
studying Economics and Engineering, Esserian
was also passionate about his aviation
training. He often stopped by the family
restaurant, Queens Lunch, before commuting
by streetcar to classes in Cambridge. When
the government no longer needed young
servicemen after WWII, Mr. Esserian’s
aviation dreams were replaced with another
After his MIT
graduation, his career path led to the Star
Market Supermarket chain. Amidst the food
industry, Armen also known as John, applied
his state-of-the-art insights. In 1957 he
posted a letter to himself (MIT Library
Archives), outlining a vision that would
revolutionize the grocery industry forever.
This historic letter included a block
diagram of a computerized check-out System
using a handheld “scanner” and pricing via
data codes. In 1960, as president of his new
company, “Character Recognition” or
CHARECOGN, Inc., John designed a black and
white circular SUNBURST to encode data.
Inc. developed cutting-edge technology that
created a “scanner” device that read the
sunburst codes, which held numerous US
Patents. In August 1970, Charecogn, Inc.
demonstrated the ease of bar code scanning
to the USDA, who originally used this
technology in the New England dairy
industry. The USDA press release of this
1970 demo stated “CHARECOGN SYSTEMS, INC. is
the first firm to develop a working trial
model. The event was covered by NBC, ABC,
BBC, Wall St. Journal, Wash. Post. John was
deluged for demo requests of his invention
from Paris to the Pentagon.
In 1999 John
attended The Smithsonian Museum of
Washington, D.C., where an exhibit detailing
the invention of the product identification
code and highlighting John’s contributions
specifically was unveiled.
services at Saint James Armenian Church, 465
Mount Auburn Street Watertown on March 24 at
11 a.m. Visiting hours at the Aram Bedrosian
Funeral Home, 558 Mount Auburn Street,
Watertown on March 23, from 4-8 p.m.
Relatives and friends are kindly invited to
attend. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts
may be made to Saint James Armenian Church
or Armenian Museum of America (65 Main
Street, Watertown, Mass. 02472). Interment
at Mount Auburn Cemetery.