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Origin and Evolution of Zip Codes

The ZIP codes are part of a system of postal codes established by the United States Postal Service in 1963. It is actually an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan. It was proposed and enacted because it was chosen to suggest that the mail travels more efficiently, and therefore more quickly, when senders use the code in the postal address. ZIP codes are no different now than they were back then: they are five digits long. However, in 1980, the ZIP extension was born. This would be the five digit number followed by a hyphen (-) and then four more digits. This was used to give a more exact location.

Back in the 60’s, the United States Post Office Department (USPOD) used a marketing icon they aptly called “Mr. ZIP” to promote the use and acceptance of ZIP codes.

What You May Not Know

We have all see the robo-looking bars of varied height on an envelope. The strip looks very much akin to a bar code. In essence, that is exactly what it is. It is a translated and fully scan-able version  of a ZIP code, called Postnet, which is used for sorting by automated machines.


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