He should at least be congratulated for getting them past their 'A' levels. Looking back, the work to standardise bar coding began in 1997 when the Mr Big campaign gave everybody a good working document, explaining how the two systems worked.

BR>The son, of course, is far more ambitious and is currently beavering away on a best practice document directed at the entire packaging chain. This, he believes, should get any difficult children through to university.

It is good to know that Mr Big’s name lives on. It’s good to know that retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury can work together. Thank God for the foresight of the e-Centre’s Barcode Innovation Committee. Perhaps, Mr Small – or whatever his name is – will finally sew up all those loose ends and get the industry’s act together.

Of course, there are two major incentives that are giving leading supermarkets a fast turn of heel. Firstly, they are becoming international organisations. Not only do they have to ship their own product around the world, they receive product from around the world. This means they have to have a single recognisable standard.

Supermarkets do not want to send goods back. They need to satisfy consumer demand. Retailers in the UK are not as aggressive as those in the States. In the US retailers such as Walmart not only send poorly bar-coded goods back and fine the offender. They also charge for loss of revenue and loss of profit. Fine levels are increased each time