In the world of retail there can't be many more revolutionary products than the handheld barcode scanner. The beauty of this kind of scanner is that it is so simple to use. Just point it at the barcode, press the trigger and the job is done. And because it is worked by hand anyone using one of these pieces of equipment is less likely to make a mistake.
Strictly speaking handheld barcode scanners are connected to the computer by a cable. There are handhelds which are connected up wirelessly. There is no cable restricting how far the scanner can be used from the computer; the only limit is the range of the wireless signal. They can be small enough to fit into a pocket. The purists do not class these scanners as handheld, instead they use the term “wireless barcode scanner.” But these scanners do offer the same ease of use as the handheld variety.
The handheld scanners that most people will be using will utilise one of two scanning technologies, the laser and the LED. Lasers continue to be the most popular, despite the introduction of LED scanning technology over the last few years.
With laser scanning technology the scanning unit contains a laser diode. The laser diode generates a dot which becomes the beam of light by being projected into a vibrating mirror. The beam of light is then scanned along the barcode.
LED is a newer type of scanning technology and the handheld barcode scanners incorporating it tend to be more durable. Also LED is much more versatile in the type of barcode it can read – it can be used to scan horizontal bar codes as well as the more typical vertical ones. The sensor then picks up the reflected light and the data is converted into ASCII text.
One decision that anyone thinking of using a handheld unit in their business is whether to stick with the conventional 1D type of scanner or the newer 2D units. The 2D scanners are becoming more popular as they do offer more, especially of course the ability to read the new 2D barcodes such as data matrix. These barcodes can hold much more information than the 1D type can which obviously makes them attractive to use. However, the 2D handheld scanners do cost much more than the 1D units. Obviously if your business can manage with the capacity restrictions of the 1D barcode then there is no real need to upgrade. Of course the converse is also true and many more businesses are now turning to the higher specification units.