The Barcode scanner is the workhorse of the POS array. It was the introduction of barcodes on virtually every product that enabled the POS or point of sale to become the nerve center of the retail operation. Barcode scanners are available in several different types including the hand held scanner, the pen scanner, and the fixed surface scanners. The fixed surface scanner where product barcodes are dragged over the lens is the most common at retail outlets. The hand held scanners, and pen scanners are more versatile, and are often used in conjunction with fixed surface scanners to augment the POS capability especially when large or unwieldy items are involved.The smaller and more mobile scanners also serve inventory functions as they can be carried easily out among the product displays, and certain types of fixed surface scanners have applications in manufacturing and logistical settings.
The barcodes themselves that are displayed on the product contain a simple numeric code that is read by the scanner. The scanners use several different methods for reading the barcode, usually involving light and the software of the scanner translates the optical image into a readable number. By coding this number to the product, a scan can be transformed into a price readout at the Point of sale or it can be sent internally to a data base tracking sales results or inventory control levels.
Since the use of barcodes and scanners has spread beyond the retail market into such areas as manufacturing and logistical control, the number of scanners available has grown steadily as their cost has dropped. Even mail carriers are now using hand held scanners to verify package delivery and fixed surface scanners are used to sort mail. This explosion of usage and function has made the barcodes and the barcode scanners that read them one of the most essential tools in the ever expanding technology of the modern market place.