Bar code scanning

From: Kevin Handy <>
Date: Thu Feb 24 09:34:28 2005

Ethan Dicks wrote:

> I've seen plenty of 'keyboard wedge' barcode scanner stuff, too, not
>just the CueCat (Radio Shack/Forbes toy from a couple of years ago)...
>the first one I saw was used in a lab with a mass spec at least 10
>years ago (on topic!), and was used with a 8.5"x11" plastic card with
>various bar codes stuck to it as a way to quickly enter what tests a
>water/urine sample was to undergo while minimizing keyboard input
>error. The device sends PC/AT keyboard scan codes down the cable as
>if the human typed the digits. The software need never know the
>origin of the input. I.e. - no driver required.
The keyboard-wedge style is fairly common. You used to be able to
get them or numerous keyboards (PC-XT, PC-AT, VT200, etc.), but
any more you probably will only see the PS/2 style new.

I've used several of these (Symbol, etc.) and they usually work quite
well, without any need to re-write data entry programs. Most are
configured by scanning special barcodes out of the manual. You
really want to get the printed manual if possible, as a copy printed
on your ink-jet will probably not scan as well if you can find the
manual on-line.

>I see CueCats at Hamfests, thrifts, etc., for a few bucks. I have a
>couple myself I got from Rat Shack when they were free with catalog
>(yes, I 'neutered' mine to not send the identifying serial number back
>to the host).
Cue-cats are lousy scanners, even if they have been spayed.

There is a way to make most versions of them send the actual scan
(solder in one jumper), so they aren't completely useless, but they
were not designed as well as commercial scanners. Expect to need
several swipes to read a scan.

Get a laser scanner instead of a wand, if possible. Much easier to
work with, and less training for the users. Will also work with labels
that are not on a hard/flat surface. E-bay is usually a good source for
used ones.
Received on Thu Feb 24 2005 - 09:34:28 GMT

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