US 3774758 A
A method and aid for sorting the mail is disclosed wherein a series of five columns of sequentially arranged numbers from zero to nine are positioned at a predetermined location on an article to be mailed. The columns may be positioned on a strip of material which also has a stamp on it. The stamp and the columns are separated from each other by a line which is weakened to facilitate bending. This strip can then be properly positioned on the article by folding at the line and attaching to the envelope so that the stamp is on one surface of the article to be mailed and the columns on another. The sender marks the appropriate number in each column corresponding to the equivalent digit in the zip code and at the post office automatic scanning and sorting devices read the markings and sort the mail accordingly.
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
Uted States Patent [1 1 Ste'rnberg METHOD AND AID FOR THE AUTOMATED SORTING OF MAIL BY ZIP CODE  Inventor: Howard W. Sternberg, 100 Caton Ave., Brooklyn, NY.
 Filed: Feb. 24, 1971 21 Appl. No.: 118,219
 US. Cl 209/1l1.7, 209/DIGv l, 209/l1l.8,
[ 1 Nov. 27, 1973 Primary Examiner-Richard A. Schacher Att0rneyWillard R. Sprowls [57 ABSTRACT A method and aid for sorting the mail is disclosed wherein a series of five columns of sequentially arranged numbers from zero to nine are positioned at a predetermined location on an article to be mailed. The columns may be positioned on a strip of material which also has a stamp on it. The stamp and the columns are separated from each other by a line which is weakened to facilitate bending. This strip can then be properly positioned on the article by folding at the line and attaching to the envelope so that the stamp is on one surface of the article to be mailed and the columns on another. The sender marks the appropriate number in each column corresponding to the equivalent digit in the zip code and at the post office automatic scanning and sorting devices read the markings and sort the mail accordingly.
6 Claims, 6 Drawing Figures 1 1 METHOD AND AID FOR THE AUTOMATED SORTING OF MAIL BY ZIP CODE BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to an aid for coding and sorting and more particularly to a method and apparatus for the sorting of mail by zip code designations.
The volume of mail presently handled by the U. S. Post Office necessitates the automation of mail sorting. As a partial step toward such automation, the post office has introduced the zip code. Each geographical area in the country is assigned a five digit number corresponding to its state, county and post office. This number is marked on the envelope by the sender as part of the address.
The post office has used area coding in both manually and automatic sorting systems. In automatic sorting, both magnetic and optical scanners have been used.
In manual sorting, the letter is inspected by an operator, who, in response to the zip code number, either operates a keyboard which causes the letter to be sent to the correct sorting bin or places the letter in the correct bin by hand.
In magnetic sorting, such as disclosed in U. S. Pat. No. 3,368,672, issued to Heaney et al. on Feb. 13, 1968, the mail is first sent to a coding operator. The coding operator codes the area information on a strip of magnetic material affixed to the envelope. Thereafter, magnetic scanners read this information which is then used to control the sorting of the mail.
In optical sorting, special printers, such as described in the US. Pat. Nos. 2,901,969 and 2,912,925 issued to J. Rabinow on Sept. 1, 1959 and Nov. 17, 1959, respectively, code area information directly on the envelope. Then the code is read by an optical scanner. In response to the scanner, related control equipment specifically attuned to the characters read by the scanner sort the mail automatically. For accurate operation, the optical scanners conventionally require specific type face, careful positioning on the envelope and often, particular ink and background colors. As a result, optical coding must be done on special equipment not readily available.
The above methods require the visual inspection of each letter by a post office employee. In manual sorting, the inspection occurs in the sorting operation itself, and in the automatic sorting, in adding the magnetic or optical code. This is both expensive and time consuming.
It would, of course, be preferable for the sender of the letter to mark the envelope in such a manner that the zip code could be directly readable by a machine. Such coding by the sender, however, presents many problems. Envelopes are not standard sizes, typewriters have different type face, people have different handwriting and put the address and the zip code in different places on the envelope. Each of these would make the automated reading of sender marked zip code information difficult if not impossible. Additionally, if special inks were needed, as in the case of magnetic coding, not all envelopes would receive such ink without the ink running.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Therefore an object of the present invention is to provide an aid for the coding of zip code information on envelopes, packages and the like by the sender in such a way that it is machine readable.
Further, it is an object of this invention to produce a system and method of marking and sorting mail that is highly efficient and has reasonable equipment costs.
In the present invention, to allow the mail to be marked directly by the sender for automatic reading and sorting, a series of five columns of sequentially arranged numbers from zero to nine are positioned at a predetermined location on the envelope or package to be mailed, preferably in the upper right hand comer of the envelope. The columns are printed directly on the article or on a strip of material which is adhered to the article. I
Where a separate strip of material is used, it is divided into two portions, one having the column of numerals, and the other having a postage stamp printed thereon. These two portions are separated from each other by a line which is preferably weakened by prefolding or by perforations to facilitate bending. Such weakening aids the correct positioning of the columns. The line is positioned along the edge of the article. The strip is folded at the line and attached to the envelope so that the postage is on one surface of the article'and the portion with the columns of numerals on another surface.
In use, the sender marks the appropriate number in each column corresponding to the equivalent digit in the zip code. The mark may be made with a marking means to which the sorting machinery at the post office responds. Markings may be madewhich are readable by magnetic, optical or electrical scanning means as will be more fully disclosed hereinafter. A reference mark or marks of the same marking material are incorporated in the initial formation of the columns.
In the preferred embodiment of the present invention, the sorting aid is positioned at the upper right hand edge of the envelope or package to be marked.
During sorting at'the post office, an automatic reading device scans along the edge of the article mailed until a reference mark is reached indicating the first column. The scanner then locates in each column the marking correspond-ing to the appropriate zip code digit. The distance along each column controls the sorting machinery so as to place the article in the correct bin.
The present invention eliminates the major problems inherent in having the sender precode his own mail. First, since it is the distance along each column which indicates the appropriate numeral, the particular handwriting or print font used in marking or crossing out the I appropriate numeral does not affect the scanner. Se-
condly, the present invention insures the positioning of the columns along one edge of the envelope thus allowing the scanner to easily locate the ref-erence and code markings even though there is variance in envelope size and in the positioning of the columns on the envelope. Finally, if a special ink or pencil is required for the scanners, the material on which the stamp and columns may be formed can be selected so that they are compatible with the marking means.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING The above mentioned features and other features and objects of this invention will become more apparent by reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is a front view of a sorting aid according to the present invention before marking and application to the article to be mailed;
FIG. 2 is a front view of the embodiment of FIG. 11 after the sender has marked each column according to the zip code;
FIG. 3 is a perspective view showing the application of the sorting aid to an envelope;
FIG. 4 is a perspective view showing the front of an envelope with a sorting aid according to the embodiment of W6. 1 attached thereto;
FIG. 5 is a rear view of the envelope of FIG. 4; and
FIG. 6 is a diagrammatic representation of a scanning and sorting means according to the present invention.
THE PREFERRED EMBODKMENTS OF THE lNVENTlON To allow the mail to be marked directly by the sender in a manner which is machine readable, a sorting aid as more fully disclosed herein is used in conjunction with the article to be mailed. in MG. l a sorting aid according to the present invention is shown in the form of a strip of material i having adhesive on one face for attaching the aid to an envelope or package to be mailed. The other face of the strip l is divided into two portions 2 and 3. The first portion 2 has a postage stamp printed thereon. The second portion 3 has a series of 5 columns of sequentially arranged numbers from zero to nine thereon.
The two portions 2 and 3 are separated from each other at a line 4 which has either weakened by prefolding or by perforation, to allow the sorting aid 1 to be easily bent along line 4.
One or more reference lines or marks 5 and 6 are positioned along the top and/or bottom of the columns. These reference marks 5 and 6 are made with a material to which the scanning or reading devices are responsive.
in use, as shown in PKG. 2, the sender marks the appropriate number in each column corresponding to the equivalent digit in the zip code. The sorting aid of FIG. 2 has been marked to indicate the zip code 10020.
Thereafter, the strip of material is folded at line 4 and is applied to thearticle to be mailed so that the stamp appears on one surface of the article and the column of numerals on another. in FIGS. 3 through 5, the strip is applied to an envelope 7 along its upper edge. The postage stamp 2 appears on the front face close to its traditional position and the portion 3 having columns of numbers is positioned on the back of the envelope 7. For ease of locating a stamp and the column of numbers, it is preferable for the stamp and numbers to be positioned at the extreme right edge of the envelope. Similarly, on packages, the stamp portion 2 would ap' pear on the upper right hand edge of the addressed face of the package and accordingly the portion 3 having the columns of numerals would be positioned on the top surface of the package at its right edge.
During sorting in the post office, the letter 7 or package (not shown) is placed in an upright position on a horizontal conveyor belt 110 which is driven by rollers 11. The envelope 7 is supported by stationary members R2, the envelope 7 passes by a scanner 1 .3.
The scanner 113 is responsive to the material used in making the code marks d and reference marks 5 and 6. For example if a magnetic system is desired, the markings 5, 6 and 8 are formed by a dispension of ferromagnetic particles in an ink.
Analogously, an electro-conductive ink or pencil may be used for making the references and coding marks 5, 6 and 8. A scanner is used which is responsive to an electric current transmitted by the'reference and coding marks 5, 6 and 8.
In an optical system, the scanner 13 could be responsive to the shape of the reference mark and to the lack of congruity between one of the numerals in each column and the scanners preset pattern for that numeral. Alternately, optical scanners requiring the use of special colored or fluorescent markings 5, 6 and 8 could be used.
The scanner l3 searches along the edge of the envelope until it finds the reference marks 5 and 6. The scanner H3 thereafter views all or a selected number of the columns corresponding to the appropriate zip code digits of interest. The distance along each column of the code marking 8 controls the gates l4 so that the letter 7 is deflected into the appropriate bin 15. Since different digits of the zip code control or relate to state, county or post office, only certain of zip code digits might be of interest in any particular sorting.
While the invention has been discussed in terms of a separate strip of material which has the coding columns and the reference marks 5 and 6 marked thereon, equally envelopes can come with the five columns of numerals premarked at a selected position on the envelope. Alternatively, the office postal machines which permit the sender to stamp envelopes with the correct postage can be adapted to form the sorting aid of the present invention directly on the envelope and apply the appropriate reference marks. The machine can also be adapted to mark or block out the correct digits corresponding to the zip code of the address.
While this invention has been discussed in connection with specific optical, magnetic or electrically conductive marking means and scanners responsive thereto, the invention may be used with any other suitable marking means and scanners. Equally while the invention has been disclosed showing the position of the sorting aid of the present inventionv in the upper right hand corner of an envelope or package, other 10- cations can be selected by the post office as the standard position. it is, however, preferred that a position along the edge which is easily located by the scanning means be used.
Having thus described my invention, what i claim and desire to protect by Letters Patent is:
11. For use with a zip code system employing a scanning device, a strip of material having adhesive on one face thereof for attachment to an envelope, the other face of said strip of material being divided into first and second portions, said first portion having a postage stamp printed thereon, said second portion having a plurality of columns of sequentially arranged numerals printed thereon, said columns being positioned side by side and being substantially coextensive in length.
2. A strip of material according to claim 1 wherein said first and second portions of the strip of material are separated from each other by a portion of the strip which is weakened.
3. A strip of material according to claim 2 wherein said weakened portion of the strip is formed by perforating said strip with a series of holes.
4. A strip of material according to claim 2 wherein said weakened portion of the strip is formed by prefolding the strip of material.
5. A method of sorting mail according to zip code comprising: providing a strip of material having adhesive on one face thereof for attachment to an object to be mailed, the other face of said strip of material being divided into first and second portions, said first portion having a postage stamp printed thereon, said second portion having a plurality of columns of sequentially arranged numerals printed thereon; adhering said strip of material to said object to be mailed in such manner that said first portion appears on one side of said object and said second portion appears on another side of said object; marking a numeral in each of said columns which corresponds to a respective digit in the zip code of the destination of the object to be mailed; scanning the second portion of said strip of material with a scanning device; and sorting said object in accordance with the marking read by said scanning device.
6. For use with a code system employing a scanning device, an envelope having visible indicia thereon, said indicia being printed on a strip of material, said strip of material being adhered to said envelope at a predetermined location, and comprising five columns of sequentially arranged numerals, each of said columns including the numerals zero through nine in each of said columns being aligned in respective rows, said indicia being printed on a first portion of said strip of material, said strip of material having a postage stamp printed on a second portion thereof spaced from said first portion, said strip of material including a weakened portion between the first and second portions thereof, said strip of material being folded at said weakened portion so that said postage stamp is positioned on one side of said envelope and said indicia is positioned on the other side of said envelope.