Serial number

A serial number is a unique identifier assigned incrementally or sequentially to an item, to uniquely identify it.

Serial numbers need not be strictly numerical. They may contain letters and other typographical symbols, or may consist entirely of a character string.

Serial number from an identity document
Serial number on a semi-automatic pistol
Serial Number
Serial number of a laptop computer

Applications of serial numbering

Serial numbers identify otherwise identical individual units with many, obvious uses. Serial numbers are a deterrent against theft and counterfeit products, as they can be recorded, and stolen or otherwise irregular goods can be identified. Banknotes and other transferable documents of value bear serial numbers to assist in preventing counterfeiting and tracing stolen ones.

They are valuable in quality control, as once a defect is found in the production of a particular batch of product, the serial number will identify which units are affected.

Serial numbers for intangible goods

Serial numbers may be used to identify individual physical or intangible objects (for example computer software or the right to play an online multiplayer game). The purpose and application is different. A software serial number, otherwise called product key, is usually not embedded in the software, but is assigned to a specific user with a right to use the software. The software will function only if a potential user enters a valid product code. The vast majority of possible codes are rejected by the software. If an unauthorised user is found to be using the software, the legitimate user can be identified from the code. It is usually not impossible, however, for an unauthorised user to create a valid but unallocated code either by trying many possible codes, or reverse engineering the software; use of unallocated codes can be monitored if the software makes an Internet connection.

Other uses of the term

The term "serial number" is sometimes used for codes which do not identify a single instance of something. For example, the International Standard Serial Number or ISSN used on magazines and other periodicals, an equivalent to the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) applied to books, is serially assigned not to each individual copy but to an issue of a periodical. It takes its name from the library science use of the word "serial" to mean a periodical.

Certificates and certificate authorities (CA) are necessary for widespread use of cryptography. These depend on applying mathematically rigorous serial numbers and serial number arithmetic, again not identifying a single instance of the content being protected.

Short SC.1
The RAF serial (XG900) on the Short SC.1

Military and government use

The term "serial number" is also used in military formations as an alternative to the expression "service number". In air forces the serial number is used to uniquely identify individual aircraft and is usually painted on both sides of the aircraft fuselage, most often in the tail area, although in some cases the serial is painted on the side of the aircraft's fin/rudder(s). Because of this, the serial number is sometimes called a "tail number".

In the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) the individual serial takes the form of two letters followed by three digits, e.g., BT308—the prototype Avro Lancaster, or XS903—an English Electric Lightning F.6 at one time based at RAF Binbrook.[1] During the Second World War RAF aircraft that were secret or carrying secret equipment had "/G" (for "Guard") appended to the serial, denoting that the aircraft was to have an armed guard at all times while on the ground, e.g., LZ548/G—the prototype de Havilland Vampire jet fighter, or ML926/G—a de Havilland Mosquito XVI experimentally fitted with H2S radar. Prior to this scheme the RAF, and predecessor Royal Flying Corps (RFC), utilised a serial consisting of a letter followed by four figures, e.g., D8096—a Bristol F.2 Fighter currently owned by the Shuttleworth Collection, or K5054—the prototype Supermarine Spitfire. The serial number follows the aircraft throughout its period of service.

In 2009 the U.S. FDA published draft guidance for the pharmaceutical industry to use serial numbers on prescription drug packages.[2] This measure is intended to enhance the traceability of drugs and to help prevent counterfeiting.

Serial number arithmetic

Serial numbers are often used in network protocols. However, most sequence numbers in computer protocols are limited to a fixed number of bits, and will wrap around after a sufficiently many numbers have been allocated. Thus, recently allocated serial numbers may duplicate very old serial numbers, but not other recently allocated serial numbers. To avoid ambiguity with these non-unique numbers, RFC 1982 "Serial Number Arithmetic", defines special rules for calculations involving these kinds of serial numbers.

Lollipop sequence number spaces are a more recent and sophisticated scheme for dealing with finite-sized sequence numbers in protocols.

See also


  • Elz, R., and R. Bush, RFC 1982 "Serial Number Arithmetic", Network Working Group, August 1996.
  • Plummer, William W. "Sequence Number Arithmetic". Cambridge, Massachusetts: Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc., 21 September 1978.


  1. ^ "British Aircraft Corporation Lightning F.Mk.6".
  2. ^ Food and Drug Administration. "Guidance for Industry Standards for Securing the Drug Supply Chain - Standardized Numerical Identification for Prescription Drug Packages Draft Guidance". Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2009.

External links

Boeing C-135 Stratolifter

The Boeing C-135 Stratolifter is a transport aircraft derived from the prototype Boeing 367-80 jet airliner (also the basis for the 707) in the early 1950s. It has a narrower fuselage and is shorter than the 707. Boeing gave the aircraft the internal designation of Model 717. Since the first one was built in August 1956, the C-135 and its variants have been a fixture of the United States Air Force.

Chevrolet Advance Design

Advance-Design was a truck series by Chevrolet, their first major redesign after WWII. It was billed as a larger, stronger, and sleeker design in comparison to the earlier AK Series. First available on Saturday June 28, 1947, these trucks were sold with various minor changes over the years until March 25, 1955, when the Task Force Series trucks replaced the aging Advance-Design model.

The same basic design family was used for all of its trucks including the Suburban, panel trucks, canopy express and cab overs. The cab overs used the same basic cab configuration and similar grille but used a shorter and taller hood and different fenders. The unique Cab Over fenders and hood required a custom cowl area which makes the Cab Over Engine cabs and normal truck cabs incompatible with one another while all truck cabs of all weights interchange.

From 1947 until 1955, Chevrolet trucks were number one in sales in the United States, with rebranded versions sold at GMC locations.While General Motors used this front end sheet metal, and to a slightly lesser extent the cab, on all of its trucks except for the Cab Overs, there are three main sizes of this truck: the half-, three-quarter-, and full ton capacities in short and long wheelbase.

ISO 6346

ISO 6346 is an international standard covering the coding, identification and marking of intermodal (shipping) containers used within containerized intermodal freight transport. The standard establishes a visual identification system for every container that includes a unique serial number (with check digit), the owner, a country code, a size, type and equipment category as well as any operational marks. The standard is managed by the International Container Bureau (BIC).


An identifier is a name that identifies (that is, labels the identity of) either a unique object or a unique class of objects, where the "object" or class may be an idea, physical [countable] object (or class thereof), or physical [noncountable] substance (or class thereof). The abbreviation ID often refers to identity, identification (the process of identifying), or an identifier (that is, an instance of identification). An identifier may be a word, number, letter, symbol, or any combination of those.

The words, numbers, letters, or symbols may follow an encoding system (wherein letters, digits, words, or symbols stand for (represent) ideas or longer names) or they may simply be arbitrary. When an identifier follows an encoding system, it is often referred to as a code or ID code. For instance the ISO/IEC 11179 metadata registry standard defines a code as system of valid symbols that substitute for longer values in contrast to identifiers without symbolic meaning. Identifiers that do not follow any encoding scheme are often said to be arbitrary IDs; they are arbitrarily assigned and have no greater meaning. (Sometimes identifiers are called "codes" even when they are actually arbitrary, whether because the speaker believes that they have deeper meaning or simply because they are speaking casually and imprecisely.)

The unique identifier (UID) is an identifier that refers to only one instance—only one particular object in the universe. A part number is an identifier, but it is not a unique identifier—for that, a serial number is needed, to identify each instance of the part design. Thus the identifier "Model T" identifies the class (model) of automobiles that Ford's Model T comprises; whereas the unique identifier "Model T Serial Number 159,862" identifies one specific member of that class—that is, one particular Model T car, owned by one specific person.

The concepts of name and identifier are denotatively equal, and the terms are thus denotatively synonymous; but they are not always connotatively synonymous, because code names and ID numbers are often connotatively distinguished from names in the sense of traditional natural language naming. For example, both "Jamie Zawinski" and "Netscape employee number 20" are identifiers for the same specific human being; but normal English-language connotation may consider "Jamie Zawinski" a "name" and not an "identifier", whereas it considers "Netscape employee number 20" an "identifier" but not a "name". This is an emic indistinction rather than an etic one.

Integrated Taxonomic Information System

The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is an American partnership of federal agencies designed to provide consistent and reliable information on the taxonomy of biological species. ITIS was originally formed in 1996 as an interagency group within the US federal government, involving several US federal agencies, and has now become an international body, with Canadian and Mexican government agencies participating. The database draws from a large community of taxonomic experts. Primary content staff are housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and IT services are provided by a US Geological Survey facility in Denver. The primary focus of ITIS is North American species, but many biological groups exist worldwide and ITIS collaborates with other agencies to increase its global coverage.

International Standard Serial Number

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an eight-digit serial number used to uniquely identify a serial publication. The ISSN is especially helpful in distinguishing between serials with the same title. ISSN are used in ordering, cataloging, interlibrary loans, and other practices in connection with serial literature.The ISSN system was first drafted as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) international standard in 1971 and published as ISO 3297 in 1975. ISO subcommittee TC 46/SC 9 is responsible for maintaining the standard.

When a serial with the same content is published in more than one media type, a different ISSN is assigned to each media type. For example, many serials are published both in print and electronic media. The ISSN system refers to these types as print ISSN (p-ISSN) and electronic ISSN (e-ISSN), respectively. Conversely, as defined in ISO 3297:2007, every serial in the ISSN system is also assigned a linking ISSN (ISSN-L), typically the same as the ISSN assigned to the serial in its first published medium, which links together all ISSNs assigned to the serial in every medium.

Internment Serial Number

An Internment Serial Number (ISN) is an identification number assigned to captives who come under control of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) during armed conflicts.On March 3, 2006, in compliance with a court order from District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, the DoD released 57 files that contained transcripts from the Guantanamo Bay inmates' Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT) and Administrative Review Board hearings.

These transcripts were only identified by the prisoners' ISNs.

On April 20, 2006, the DoD released the first of two official lists of captives, which contained the captives' ISNs, names, and nationalities.

That list provided information about the 558 Guantanamo captives whom the DoD acknowledges were held in Guantanamo in August 2004 and whose status as "enemy combatants" was confirmed or disputed by a CSRT.

On May 15, 2006, the DoD released a longer list of 759 individuals, which they asserted listed all those who had been held military custody at Guantanamo.The two lists contain incompatible names for numerous individuals. Several dozen men who are known to have been held in Guantanamo are not present on either official list.

A ghost detainee originally known only as Triple X was not assigned an ISN because his secret imprisonment was requested by the Central Intelligence Agency.On January 16, 2010, the DoD published a list of 645 captives who were held in the Bagram Theater internment facility, in Afghanistan.

Historian Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison, published an annotated version of the list, in which he noted that the numbers were not always assigned sequentially. Three former Guantanamo captives were re-apphrehended after their release, and are held in Bagram under their original ISN.

Library of Congress Control Number

The Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) is a serially-based system of numbering cataloging records in the Library of Congress in the United States. It has nothing to do with the contents of any book, and should not be confused with Library of Congress Classification.

List of trademarked open-source software

This is a list of free/open-source software whose names are covered by registered trademarks. As many countries provide some form of basic protection for unregistered (common law) trademarks, nearly any free or open-source software title may be trademarked under common law. This list covers software whose trademarks are registered under a country's intellectual property body.

NASA space-flown Gemini and Apollo medallions

NASA space-flown Gemini and Apollo medallions were mission-specific commemorative medallions—often astronaut-designed—which were approved by NASA and carried aboard the mission spacecraft into orbit. Beginning with the first manned Gemini mission in 1965, commemorative medallions were prepared for the astronauts at their request. These were produced by a company only known as Fliteline and were struck either in a pewter-colored base metal, sometimes painted a gold color, or sterling silver, and were flown on all 10 manned Gemini missions. A Fliteline medallion was designed and produced for Apollo 1, but was never officially flown after a disastrous cabin fire during a launch rehearsal killed the flight crew.

The Robbins Company of Attleboro, Massachusetts, was contracted in 1968 to produce commemorative medallions beginning with Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo flight since the Apollo 1 disaster. These were purchased by astronauts and support crew personnel at NASA Astronaut Flight Office, and a total of over 3,000 sterling silver Robbins medallions were flown into space across the 12 manned flights of the Apollo program. Some of these were later sold in public auction for up to $60,000. The basic elements of the medallion design are consistent throughout the 12 medallions in the series, with the main design element and the mission name on the obverse, mission dates on the reverse, primary flight crew names on either the obverse or reverse, and a serial number either on the lower reverse or on the rim. A very small number of Apollo Robbins medallions were also struck in 14k gold, generally ordered by the mission crew as a personal memento. Sterling silver Robbins medallions have continued to be struck for every manned NASA spaceflight, including Skylab and Space Shuttle missions.

Pentium III

The Pentium III (marketed as Intel Pentium III Processor, informally PIII) brand refers to Intel's 32-bit x86 desktop and mobile microprocessors based on the sixth-generation P6 microarchitecture introduced on February 26, 1999. The brand's initial processors were very similar to the earlier Pentium II-branded microprocessors. The most notable differences were the addition of the SSE instruction set (to accelerate floating point and parallel calculations), and the introduction of a controversial serial number embedded in the chip during the manufacturing process.

Even after the release of the Pentium 4 in late 2000, the Pentium III continued to be produced until March 2003.

Product activation

Product activation is a license validation procedure required by some proprietary computer software programs. Product activation prevents unlimited free use of copied or replicated software. Unactivated software refuses to fully function until it determines whether it is authorized to fully function. Activation allows the software to stop blocking its use. An activation can last "forever", or it can have a time limit, requiring a renewal or re-activation for continued use.

In one form, product activation refers to a method invented by Ric Richardson and patented (U.S. Patent 5,490,216) by Uniloc where a software application hashes hardware serial numbers and an ID number specific to the product's license (a product key) to generate a unique installation ID. This installation ID is sent to the manufacturer to verify the authenticity of the product key and to ensure that the product key is not being used for multiple installations.

Alternatively, the software vendor sends the user a unique product serial number. When the user installs the application it requests that the user enter their product serial number, and checks it with the vendor's systems over the Internet. The application obtains the license limits that apply to that user's license, such as a time limit or enabling of product features, from the vendor's system and optionally also locks the license to the user's system. Once activated the license continues working on the user's machine with no further communication required with the vendor's systems. Some activation systems also support activation on user systems without Internet connections; a common approach is to exchange encrypted files at an Internet terminal.

Microsoft Product Activation was introduced in the Brazilian version of Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition and Microsoft Word 97 sold in the Hungarian market. It broadened that successful pilot with the release of Microsoft Publisher 98 in the Brazilian market. Microsoft then rolled out product activation in its flagship Microsoft Office 2000 product. All retail copies sold in Australia, Brazil, China, France, and New Zealand, and some sold in Canada and the United States, required the user to activate the product via the Internet. However, all copies of Office 2000 do not require activation after April 15, 2003. After its success, the product activation system was extended worldwide and incorporated into Windows XP and Office XP and all subsequent versions of Windows and Office. Despite independently developing its own technology, in April 2009 a jury found Microsoft to have willfully infringed Uniloc's patent. However, in September 2009, US District Judge William Smith "vacated" the jury's verdict and ruled in favour of Microsoft. This ruling was subsequently overturned in 2011.

An early example of product activation was in the MS-DOS program D'Bridge Email System written by Chris Irwin, a commercial network system for BBS users and Fidonet. The program generated a unique serial number which then called the author's BBS via a dialup modem connection. Upon connection, the serial number was validated. A unique "key" was returned which allowed the program to continue for a trial period. If two D'Bridge systems communicated using the same key, the software deliberately crashed. The software has long since had the entire activation system removed and is now freeware by Nick J. Andre, Ltd.

Replacement banknote

A replacement banknote, commonly referred to as a star note, is a banknote that is printed to replace a faulty one and is used as a control mechanism for governments or monetary authorities to know the exact number of banknotes being printed. Also, since no two serial numbers can be the same , the bill is simply reprinted with a symbol in the serial number, identifying it as a replacement for an error note. Replacement bills have different symbols to mark the error around the world, although the most popular examples are "star notes".

Service number

A service number is an identification code used to identify a person within a large group. Service numbers are most often associated with the military; however, they may be used in civilian organizations as well. Social Security Numbers may be seen as types of service numbers.

The term "serial number" is often seen as a synonym of service number; however, a serial number more accurately describes manufacture and product codes, rather than personnel identification. In the Canadian military, a "Serial Number" referred to a unique number assigned each unit that mobilized for the Second World War.

United Kingdom military aircraft serial numbers

United Kingdom military aircraft serials refers to the serial numbers used to identify individual military aircraft in the United Kingdom. All UK military aircraft are allocated and display a unique serial number. A unified serial number system, maintained by the Air Ministry (AM), and its successor the Ministry of Defence (MoD), is used for aircraft operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF), Fleet Air Arm (FAA) and Army Air Corps (AAC). Military aircraft operated by government agencies and civilian contractors (for example QinetiQ) are also assigned serials from this system.

When the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed in 1912 aircraft were identified by a letter/number system related to the manufacturer. The prefix "A" was allocated to balloons of No.1 Company, Air Battalion, Royal Engineers, the prefix "B" to aeroplanes of No.2 Company, and the prefix "F" to aeroplanes of the Central Flying School. The Naval Wing used the prefix "H" for seaplanes ("Hydroaeroplanes" as they were then known), "M" for monoplanes, and "T" for aeroplanes with engines mounted in tractor configuration. Before the end of the first year a unified serial number system was introduced for both Army and Naval aircraft.

The serials are allocated when the contract is placed with the manufacturer or supplier.

In an RAF or FAA pilot's personal service log book, the serial number of any aircraft flown, along with any other particulars, such as aircraft type, flight time, purpose of flight, etc., is entered by the pilot after every flight, thus giving a complete record of the pilot's flying activities and which individual aircraft have been flown.

United States military aircraft serial numbers

In the United States, all military aircraft display a serial number to identify individual aircraft. These numbers are located on the aircraft tail, so they are sometimes referred to unofficially as "tail numbers". On the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit bomber, lacking a tail, the number appears on the nose gear door. Individual agencies have each evolved their own system of serial number identification. Aircraft serials are part of the Aircraft Visual Identification System, which also includes the aircraft's tail code and Modex.

VSS Unity

VSS Unity (Virgin Space Ship Unity, Registration: N202VG), previously referred to as VSS Voyager, is a SpaceShipTwo-class suborbital rocket-powered manned spaceplane. It is the second SpaceShipTwo to be built and will be used as part of the Virgin Galactic fleet. It first flew to space on December 13, 2018.The spacecraft was rolled out on 19 February 2016

and completed ground-based system integration testing in September 2016, prior to its first flight on 8 September 2016.

Vehicle registration plates of Nevada

The U.S. state of Nevada first required its residents to register their motor vehicles in 1913. Registrants provided their own license plates for display until 1916, when the state began to issue plates.Plates are currently issued by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Vehicle registration plates of the United States for 1911

Each of the 50 states of the United States of America plus several of its territories and the District of Columbia issued individual passenger license plates for 1911.

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