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Barcode Equipment: Reading and Scanning FAQs

Barcode Equipment: Reading and Scanning FAQs

Barcode equipment continues to become more sophisticated, and so the variety of hardware and software available can seem bewildering. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know.

What is a barcode?

Essentially a barcode is a form of technology that allows information about products to be collected quickly and efficiently. Data is coded into parallel black bars and white spaces of varying widths, which are read by moving a scanning device from one side of the code to the other. The pattern is then analyzed by a decoder and the data is recovered from a computer and appears on the screen. The system is mainly used in supermarkets and other retail outlets.


What are barcode laser scanners?

Sometimes described as 'non-contact' scanners, barcode laser scanners are a familiar sight in supermarkets and have become an essential piece of barcode equipment. Unlike the traditional 'wand' scanner, this product is more user-friendly and can read barcodes from up to a foot away simply by holding the laser beam over the barcode and pulling the trigger button. Laser scanners are particularly useful when reading codes from a distance or on uneven surfaces.

What are barcode wand scanners?

Wands are probably one of the most popular and widely used pieces of barcode equipment due largely to their low cost compared with more advanced scanners. This type of scanner is easy to use and is moved by hand across the surface of the barcode to read it, but has to be kept in contact with the code as it is scanned.

What are barcode portable readers?

These portable readers are currently at the forefront of barcode reading equipment and combine the barcode scanner, which can be fitted with a wand or laser scanner, and a micro-computer that collects data which can be read on the small screen of the portable unit. The information which has been gathered is saved and uploaded to the main computer later via an RS-232 port and can be easily imported into programs such as Excel.

Is there such a thing as a general barcode format?

By far the most popular and widely used barcode format is the Universal Product Code (UPC), which is recognized all over the world and is mainly used in supermarkets. It was developed at the beginning of the 1970s in America and has gone from strength to strength. The second most popular barcode format is the CODE 39 format and is the standard format for Government, education and manufacturing applications due to its global reading capability and its simplicity of use.