Brilliant Innovation: Automated Luggage Tags

A fascinating story in Slate about the humble airline luggage tag, making a convincing case that it is a masterpiece of industrial design and brilliant engineering.

Airline tags then and now; as collected by the Smithsonian

Many interesting observations, including:

But crucially, an ABT doesn’t just contain a bar code—it’s also custom-printed with your name, flight details, and destination. That made the global implementation of ABTs much easier, because early-adopters could introduce them long before every airport was ready—a huge advantage when it comes to seamlessly connecting the world’s least and most advanced airports. And of course, ABTs can still be read manually when systems break down.

Nice to know the Air and Space Museum archivist is keeping track of them. Check out the beautiful slides of pre-ABT art (which the article suggests might come back courtesy of RFID).

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