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Bubble-in ZIP code

Machine readable ZIP codes for first class envelopes
  (+4, -8)
(+4, -8)
  [vote for,

Take the technology used in many machine-readable forms, tests and surveys (you know, "bubble in" the answer) and use it for sorting mail.

The only machine-readable part would be the ZIP code. I would pre-print a grid on the center of the bottom edge of first class envelopes. This grid would be roughly below where the hand-written address would (still) appear. The ZIP would be moved from the current location (next to the state name) to the next line. A series of 5+4 boxes would be in that line, and below these would be the "bubbles" for 0-9. The ZIP is still written by hand into those boxes and bubbled in as well.

The way I understand it, the mail is sorted primarily by ZIP code and primarily by machine (OCR). Some quantity of mail goes to a Remote Coding Center, where computers and/or humans guess at the ZIP.

I figure that optical scanning technology has advanced where "any" mark in the bubbles is readable. (That is, pencil, pen, blue ink, black ink, sharpie, etc) Post Office black ink would be the standard, but others might still work. One suggestion is to have small pens like "bingo daubers"- a pen on one side and a dauber on the other. Just dab the right numbers and you're done.

If the bubbles are incomplete or damaged, a handwritten ZIP is still on the envelope so it's still deliverable. You'd have to poorly write *and* have a bad bubble for the sorting process to fail.

Postal codes would be a little more complicated.

Gamma48, May 02 2007

Like this? http://www.answers....an-postal-codes-png
Have been in use, I believe, for 50 years or so [xipetotec, May 03 2007]


       [-] because this would be for the convenience of the postal service, not of its customers. And although you say that a handwritten code would still be handled, you just know that you will be penalized sooner or later for not using their damn bubbles.   

       I pay them whatever they ask in order to deliver my mail - how they read the postcode is, frankly, their problem and not mine.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 03 2007

       Thankfully, bubble sorters have already been invented.
Ling, May 03 2007

       [+] this would be great to eliminate hand coding errors and speed mail delivery for hand written letters. Machine print should include the barcode or at least be easier to OCR, so no changes would be required there.   

       The only problem I see is the increased cost of pre-printing the bubbles.   

       Idea: Is it possible that a series of lines could simply be drawn by hand under each digit of the zip? Then this could be used as a check on the hand written zip.   

       [Max], the thing is, anything that costs them money gets passed back to use in the form of postage increases. And right now, the major cost of the USPS is labor. As in, when the automated systems can't read the zip, someone has to manually type it.   

       [Lt_Frank], this would be a USPS system and probably not applicable to Canada or the UK.
James Newton, May 03 2007

       //the thing is, anything that costs them money gets passed back to use in the form of postage increases.//   

       I know, and I really don't care. Postage costs almost nothing, at least for letters in the UK. I just want to give someone some money and a letter, and have it arrive at its destination quickly and safely. How they do it is entirely their problem - that's the deal.   

       People are increasingly asked to do other people's jobs for them (sort their trash, code their mail, serve themselves, whatever). I get sick of it.   

       ANDanutherthing.....do you think they would consider reducing their costs if people used these bubbles? Or would you just wind up paying the extra few pence for soon-to-be-obligatory "special bubblecoded envelopes"?   

       This is the way civilisations crumble, mark my words. No good will come of it.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 03 2007

       [+] It could be worse, they could make you write those binary zip+4 barcodes by hand (half height bar=0,full bar=1), and at least there would be less mail undeliverable because of sloppy writing.
Spacecoyote, May 06 2007

       Most zip codes in the US are machine read anyway. Yes, they can decipher some of the most interesting handwriting.   

       It is a relatively easy task. There are only three formats. (five digit, nine digit with the last four separated, nine digit with the last four not separated.) and only ten symbols that encode meaning.
Galbinus_Caeli, May 06 2007


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