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Definition: BarCode Scanner
A barcode scanner (also called as a price scanner or a point-of-sale scanner) is a handheld or stationery input device used to capture, read and record the information stored in a bar code in the form of black and white lines. A barcode scanner has three components: a scanner, a decoder (which can be either external or may be built-in), and a cable to ensure a stable connection of the scanner with a desktop computer. A barcode scanner sends the data it captures on the barcode to a computer wherein a software application decodes it to get relevant information from the codes.
A barcode scanner basically directs a beam of light towards the barcode and captures the amount of light reflected back by the barcode. The dark lines in a barcode reflect less light whereas the white spaces reflects almost all of it. Thus, the amount of light reflected is then converted into energy in the form of electricity, which is later converted into data (numbers and letters) by the decoder and is then sent across to a computer.
There are different kinds of barcode scanners, namely:
i) Pen wand - to be held in direct physical contact with the barcode at a certain angle and to be moved at a certain speed
ii) Slot scanner – a stationery device over which the item with the barcode is moved inside the slot and is generally used to scan the barcodes on identification cards.
iii) CCD scanner – most commonly used in modern retail sales. It has a gun type interface and is to be held around 1 to 1.5 inches from the barcode. It cannot read a barcode which more wide than the input face of the scanner.
iv) Image scanner – uses a small camera to capture a snapshot of the barcode and decodes it using modern processing techniques for digital images. It can read a barcode from around three to nine inches away.
v) Laser scanner – It uses a series of mirrors and lenses to read and record the barcode irrespective of the orientation angle and can read barcodes from as far as 24 inches. Sophisticated long range scanners can read barcodes even from about 30 inches away.
The first scanning of a Universal Product Barcode was done in 1974 on a pack of Wrigley chewing gum. Sharon Buchanan, a checker at Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio scanned the very first barcode.