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Portable Barcode Scanners - Kinds of Portable Barcode Scanners

laser wand pen barcodes

The technology behind barcodes may seem like a modern invention, but in fact, it dates back to the 1940s. In the years immediately following the conclusion of World War II, American grocery store owners were looking for ways to boost efficiency and to gather information about grocery shopping habits. One goal of these grocers was the ability to create a system that could keep track of their inventories and help to monitor how products could be arranged on shelves to influence sales. Many scientists began to work on methods to achieve these goals, including two young scientists named Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. At first, they experimented with fluorescent dyes, but these proved to be expensive and inefficient. Soon, Woodland began to experiment with a system based on the dots and dashes of Morse code. In a stroke of inspiration while doodling in the sand at the beach, Woodland extended the dots and dashes vertically through the sand, creating a series of wide and narrow lines that became the origin of the bar code. The team worked on a method of scanning and writing the code and filed for a patent soon after Woodland’s discovery. It was not until some 20 years later in the 1970s that barcodes became mainstream in the grocery industry, but now they are everywhere from consumer goods, to tickets, to high security items, and even in medical labs. Indeed, almost any industry or application that requires a large number of items to be counted relies on barcodes and barcode scanners.

A typical barcode is a series of thick and thin vertical lines that correspond to numbers or other data. To be read, these lines require barcode scanners, which read the pattern of lines and then relay the information to a computer system that interprets the data and converts it into useful data that a person can use.

There three major types of portable barcode scanners that are commonly used today. They are the pen or wand scanner, the laser scanner, and the LED scanner. Each is based on different technology and has its own benefits and limitations.

Pen or wand scanners are barcode scanners that include a light source and a photo-detector at the tip of the device. In order to read a barcode, the wand or pen is dragged across the surface of the barcode, where the photo-detector picks up variations in light as the wand moves between light and dark spaces. The information is then transferred to a computer that interprets the data and outputs usable information. While most pen or wand scanners are hooked up to a large computer, there are some portable barcode scanners that use the pen and wand method of scanning. These portable units are small and powered by batteries and can be either corded or wireless. One disadvantage of the pen and wand scanner is that it is susceptible to user error. The pen must be held at the proper angle and has to maintain constant contact with the barcode in order to read it. Because of this, pen and wand scanners are slow. However, they are the least expensive types of portable barcode scanners available.

Laser barcode scanners use lasers to read the barcodes rather than another kind of light source. Laser barcode scanners are the industry standard and are used by more industries than other kinds of portable laser scanners. The reason for this is twofold. First, laser scanners can read codes from long distances that may be as much as 30 feet away. Also, laser scanners have the ability to read very large barcodes, which may be impractical to scan by hand. Unfortunately, laser barcode scanners are much more expensive than other kinds of barcode scanners. Laser barcode scanners are usually large and fixed in position, but there are some portable barcode scanners that use laser technology on the market.

The third kind of barcode scanner is the LED scanner. The LED barcode scanner uses small light emitting diodes to detect the ambient light given off by the barcode. The data is sent to a computer that interprets the pattern and then outputs usable information. One good thing about LED scanners is that they are very durable. LED barcode scanners do not have any moving parts, making them hard to break and perfect for portability. In fact, the life expectancy of an LED barcode scanner is over 10 times longer than that of a laser scanner. Not only this, but they are smaller and less expensive than laser scanners. LED scanners do have some drawbacks, however. First, they are only useful in reading barcodes that are smaller than the width of the row of LEDs in the scanner. Next, their range is much less than laser scanners. However, their durability and price may offset some of the negatives when compared to laser scanners.

The technology behind portable barcode scanners has come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Once relegated to grocery stores and train yards, barcodes are now a part of everyday life. As technology continues to improve, new portable barcode scanners are sure to be introduced to the market, making more advances in efficiency and functionality.

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