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Barcode Systems

There are many different types and complexities of bar code systems. The type of system required is determined by the application. A basic bar code scanning system is fundamentally broken down into a scanner, a decoder, a computer, and a printer. There are many other configurations, but this is the fundamental building block for bar coding. The scanner and decoder together input and read bar codes into a computer system while the printer generates bar codes for labeling.

For the most part, there are three different types of decoders: wedge decoders, software decoders, and serial decoders. Wedge decoders are external devices that wedge between the keyboard and terminal. Software decoders perform the complete decoding in software running on a PC. Serial decoders connect into the communications (COM) port of the PC. Decoded scanners can either connect via the keyboard wedge or via the serial port.

There are two different types of scanners: contact and non-contact. Contact scanners required physical contact to scan as opposed to non-contact scanners which can be several inches to several feet away. Scanners are discussed in more detail in the Input Device section. Both types of scanners can be used in the same system to meet different scanning requirements.

Many new programs can now generate bar code labels using common PC printers. Both dot matrix and laser printers are used to economically generate paper labels using pin-fed and sheet-fed labels. Thermal transfer and direct thermal printers produce the highest quality of print on nearly any kind of face stock.