Barcode Scanners: CCD and USB Scanner
Decoding Barcode Scanners
Barcode scanners first appeared in US shops in the mid-1970s. Supermarket chains and their suppliers wanted a way to track sales and stock movement automatically, without having to constantly key in product codes by hand. The development of USB and CCD barcode technology presented an ideal solution, speeding up checkout queues and allowing new stock to be checked in at the wave of a wand.
There are many different types of barcode, but in the US the UPC barcode (Universal Product Code) is the most common and this is the only format that is recognized at shop checkout counters. UPC barcodes contain a unique six-digit company number, issued by the Uniform Code Council, and a unique six-digit product code, or UPC. This allows operators to scan any item and retrieve information stored on a product database, such as prices, descriptions, sizes and special offers. This information can also be printed on customer receipts.
Barcode scanners work by illuminating and reading the reflected pattern of thin and thick bands on the barcodes. The two most common scanners are laser and CCD. Laser scanners contain laser diodes and oscillating mirrors. They have a greater operating range (between one and two feet) and can read longer barcodes. CCD scanners use LEDs for illumination and contain no moving parts. This means that CCD units are often smaller, lighter, cheaper and more resilient. However, they can only read barcodes within a couple of inches and can be less user-friendly.
Reliable entry-level barcode USB scanners are widely available today and you can pick up a basic CCD scanner for as little as $100. However, some of the cheaper models require complex decoders, which will have to be bought separately and configured. So if you're looking for an affordable solution, you should look for a scanner with a built-in decoder.
Before investing in a barcode scanner you need to map out the full costs on paper. Will the scanner integrate seamlessly into your computer system and product database (ideally it should be a USB scanner), or will you have to upgrade or invest in a new system? Do the products you want to scan already carry UPC barcodes, or will you need to generate your own?
For a short beginners guide and product information on handheld scanners see barcoding4beginners