The invention of the postcode has caused revolutionary improvements in nations across the world since it was first implemented in 1950s Britain. It was a development which largely came about because the postal service had no other choice; another invention, the electro-mechanical sorting machine, was being installed into the nation’s sorting offices, but the bottleneck of human involvement still had to be overcome if those machines were to deliver the packages to their destinations promptly.
Today, the postcode still serves this purpose – but it also serves several others. Let’s run through some of the reasons the humble postcode might be used in Britain today.
If you’re on the lookout for employment, then you’re likely to have visited one of the many websites set up in the UK to unite businesses with quality applicants. In order to do this, filtering by location is essential. After all, if you’re based in Croydon you’re unlikely to be interested in jobs in Carlisle. Fortunately, the postcode provides a straightforward means of filtering out the unwanted matches.
Your postcode can also provide exactly the same sort of location-matching if you’re looking for love on the world wide web. They’ll be able to match you with singles nearby, rather than those based on the other side of the country.
For parents looking to find out whether they’re in the catchment area of their local school, the postcode can provide a great indicator. If you’re contemplating making a move, and you’ve taken note of a local high-school you think would benefit from your children (and the other way around), be sure to take note of the postcode. The same logic applies for other public services, like doctors. Without the invention of the humble postcode, calculating catchment areas would be an incredibly tedious and complicated chore – but with them, it’s largely automated and straightforward.
As well as calculating how near you are to a given place – like a business, school, hospital or potential dating partner – postcodes can also provide an indication of how likely your property is to suffer an attempted break-in or fire. This information is not only valuable in and of itself, but it’ll also have an effect on the sorts of insurance you’ll be offered, and at what price. The precise calculus through which this is arrived at is a closely-guarded secret – but what’s clear is that postcodes allow an easy means of an insurance provider seeing how vulnerable to disaster you are, and how much they should bet against you suffering one.
One of the most revolutionary modern uses of a postcode is satellite navigation, which is now ubiquitous. The overwhelming majority of us even carry miniature sat-nav systems around with us. They’ve made it far simpler to get from one destination to the other – even if the latter destination is entirely unknown. This technology has also had knock-on effects on the shipping and haulage industries, hugely decreasing shipping times, and the proportion of packages which fail to arrive at their destination on time.
The internet has revolutionised the way that we buy most things – whether it’s your weekly grocery shop or the fridge you store your groceries in, you’ll be able to order them online and have them delivered right to your front door.
Of course, while this is certainly a marked improvement on the pre-internet retail situation in almost every conceivable sense, there’s still the chance that your package won’t arrive as it’s supposed to. Whether due to human error or an act of god, a given (albeit very small) proportion of packages will be misplaced, damaged, or just a little bit late. And in most cases, the cause of this is addresses being incorrectly recorded. You’ll be able to minimise the likelihood of this happening with the help of an address lookup programme – one which only asks that the user input a postcode, and then allows them to choose from a long list of valid addresses. You might also use address data cleansing software to ensure that all of the entries into the database are valid.
Finally, postcode lookup will also help you to find the nearest branch of just about every cinema, shop, building society and bingo hall in a matter of mere moments. If you pair it with a suitable pathfinding program, such as the one you’re carrying around on your phone, you’ll even be provided with an easy route to get there!