The Computer Revolution/Peripherals/Scanners

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Source Data Entry versus Keyboard EntryEdit

Society is continually attempting to increase speed and efficiency. This, too, applies to methods of inputting data into computer systems. Why keep the old, slower, antiquated and less efficient systems of data entry if there are alternatives?

Keyboard entry of some form was once the only means of inputting data into a computer. A person would enter the data by typing in the information or data using a keyboard. Today, this has changed significantly.

The interim step of typing in data has often been removed from the process and digital or “machine-readable data” maybe created by “source data-entry devices” and, as a result, input directly into the processor. Alternatively, the data maybe created and put on magnetic media or output directly onto paper. This is achieved through the use of source data-entry devices (Williams & Sawyer, 2007, Using Information Technology: A Practical Introduction to Computers & Communications, 7th ed., Montreal: McGraw-Hill Irwin, p. 265). While few, if any, keystrokes maybe required to achieve data input (depending upon the application and equipment), in general, the keyboard entry process is eliminated and information is automatically entered in digital form from the “source” itself – whether that is a document, bar code, etc.

The following sections will more closely examine scanners, bar-code readers, fax machines, mark- and character-recognition devices, as well as the time and labour saving advantages of these “source data-entry devices.”

Scanners and Readers: An Overview of TypesEdit

Scanning and reading devices are types of source data entry machines to input automatically data (i.e. prices, code, etc.) in digital form from external sources like bar code to the computer. These types of machine-readable data differ from keyboard data-entry. The main difference between keyboard entry and source data entry is the form of entering data, while scanning devices scan data automatically, in the keyboard you need to type or enter prices or data on the keyboard.

Other scanning devices (source data-entry devices) different than scanners are bar-code readers, mark- and character-recognition devices, fingerprint scanners, and fax machines.

Fax Machines - The Early EntryEdit

The word “Fax” in Latin terms means – make a copy or make similar. The first fax machine was invented in 1843 by an inventor by the name of Alexander Bain a Scottish mechanic ( Alexander received the first patent to improve and produce electric currents used in electric telegraph. Alexander’s first fax machine consisted of a pendulum with a stylus mounted on top which would scan a metal surface. Alexander Bain was also fascinated with clocks so he combined parts of a clock as well as features of the telegraph to come up with the first fax machine (

After Alexander Bain invented the first fax machine other inventors decided to further develop the product. The second inventor who made additions to the fax machine was Giovanni Caselli who was an Italian Physicist. In 1862 he built on to Bain’s creation and built a “Pantatelegraph”, which was a synchronizing agent In 1924 The American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T)developed the telephotography machine (a type of fax machine) that was used to send political convention photos long distance for newspaper. In 1926, RCA invented the Radiophoto that faxed by using radio broadcasting technology. It wasn't untill 1947 when Alexander Muirhead invented a very successful fax machine. On March 4, 1955, the first radio fax transmission was sent across the continent. In 1966 a company that was known as Magnovox developed a more savvy version of a fax machine called a Magnafax Telecopier. Marketed by Xerox, it was a more compact machine that could transmit signals and be connected to the phone line ( It took approximately 6 minutes to send a letter which was an amazing improvement from the earlier versions.

Scanners - A Closer LookEdit

A scanner is a machine that helps enable in the reading of data and information printed on paper such as text, image, drawings, and photos by using optical (light-sensing) technology. This data can be converted into digital form to the computer. A scanner is commonly connected to the computer through of USB, Firewire, Parallel or SCSI port. Electronic imaging technology is used by scanner to digitalize images.

Users can store on a storage device, display on a monitor, transmit to another computer, and process by a computer. The files produced by a scanner are images as bit map so that you can not directly edit text that has been scanned if the scanner has an optical character recognition (OCR) system to convert the image into the ASCII characters.

Scanner differs from one another in the following respects:

Dot and Bitmap: Images are conjunction of light, dark or colour dots. A dot is the smallest identifiable part of an image. A grid of dots stored as digital code is called bitmap. Bitmap defines a display space and the colour for each pixel.

Resolution: Is the number of pixel of individual points of color contained on a display monitor, expressed in terms of the number of pixels on the horizontal axis and the number on the vertical axis. Also is called as the density of bitmaps (,290660,sid44_gci212895,00.html retrieved on November 25, 2006)

Types of Scanners: There are larger scanners as sheet-fed and flatbed scanners, and half-page scanners. Also, there are other available scanners such as business-card, slide, photo scanners, and DocuPen that can scan text from books and articles.

Bar-Code Readers - Reading Between the LinesEdit

Consumers have become accustomed to the use of bar codes on products in the retail industry. Although oftentimes frustrating, especially when missing or unreadable, the use of bar codes on consumer products is commonplace.

These are the vertical marks on most products. While there are various kinds of bar code systems, the system most often in use in North America is called the UPC or Universal Product Code as established by the UCC (Uniform Code Council).

There are also different types of codes, including 1D, 2D and 3D.

  • 1D is the conventional or ordinary vertical style of bar code most of us would recognize on the majority of our purchases.
  • 2D bar codes are less familiar, and exist in two forms (1) a series of hexagons and (2) different-sized rectangles. These bar codes may be found on our medicine bottles/containers or used by such companies as UPS. The rectangular format for 2D bar codes is more appropriate for items with limited space considerations, because the data maybe stored or recorded along the height as well as the length of the rectangles.

One of the most commonly used 2D bar codes today is the QR (quick response) code. This is the code that can be scanned by a consumer on their mobile phone which links the consumer and that particular brand. Consumers are able to find more information about that brand simply by using the camera on the mobile phone to scan the QR code. Consumers might also obtain coupons for that brand or even purchase tickets for an event by scanning the QR code.

  • 3D bar codeshave surface height differences and are most appropriate for “… metal, hard rubber, and other surfaces to which ordinary bar codes will not adhere” (Williams & Sawyer, pp. 266-268).

In order to make these bar codes usable, it is necessary to read them with a bar-code reader. The "photoelectric or optical scanners … translate the symbols in the bar code into digital code – a source data entry system -- thereby eliminating the need – in most cases -- for check-out clerks or inventory checkers having to enter prices or quantities into the computer system via a keyboard" (Williams & Sawyer, p. 267).

How does it work?Edit

An item’s bar code and corresponding information (price, description, etc.) is stored in the company’s computer. When the bar code is scanned the details saved to that bar code are retrieved by the point-of-sale terminal. These details will be condensed and printed on your receipt. The details of the sale are recorded in the computer for accounting, inventory counts and assists with management decision-making with respect to product lines (Williams & Sawyer, p. 267).

“Bar code technology saves … loads of money in the long and short term and provides … computer data that’s both accurate and timely beyond expectations … [and] a field known as AIDC or “Automated Identification and Data Collection [can] eliminate relatively-ancient forms of data collection like writing on paper (1,000 years old) and keyboarding (100+ years old) and replace them with computerized and automated strategies” ( Retrieved, Nov 21, 2006).

The use of bar codes and readers has enabled businesses, especially retail enterprises, to advance to a more automated process, the self-scanning checkout. This will be examined in more detail below.

Mark- and Character-Recognition DevicesEdit

Character Optical Recognition devices

This software converts characters from an image into actual text for computer processing. Optical character recognition is visual scanning tool that will read text in hard data and convert it into a text that the computer can read (

Optical mark recognition

This type of software is dramatically different from character optical recognition device. This mechanism will read and scan marks from a page that is a printed document. Remember Scantron everyone??? These type of machines will read your answers on a scantron test as well as read lottery numbers on a scanned ticket ( The optical mark recognition machine does not read text it detects shaded or written marks in a shaded area. This machine is incredibly fast as it can scan and read up to 3,000 sheets per hour ( The optical mark scanner is connected to your personal computer which can then run the special OMR software

New AgeEdit


A pen scanner that recognizes different fonts ranging from typed textbooks, magazines, faxes, spreadsheets to handwritten notes. It works just like a highlighter

How do you use this technology?

1. Simply glide over the text, Data or Image.

2. The pen is attached through your USB port and information is tranfered to Microsoft Word, Excel etc.

Saving Time and Labour -- The Self Service SystemEdit

Do you hate those long lineups at the checkout counter? Are you frustrated with the checkout clerk that takes too long … in your opinion? Well, maybe the answer lies in the ever-increasing use of self-service or self-scanning checkouts.

The use of self-service systems is becoming more prevalent, especially in light of the decreasing availability, and increasing costs, of labour.

At the self-serve gas bar you may encounter the credit or debit card payment option and at the larger, local retail establishment, you may be able to scan and pay for your purchases using a NCR FastLane self-service scanning system. The latter system uses bar codes and associated readers in addition to a means of checking or weighing items to verify one’s purchase(s) with the bar code and price (Williams & Sawyer, p. 268).

3D ScannersEdit

3D printers are capable of physically producing a model with obvious applications in the product development industries. The printers are capable of being made with in a few minutes (depending on the size) in shop. The printer itself looks like a scaled up version of the common office document printer.[1]


Types of ScannersEdit

A Document Scanner

Flatbed Scanners scan flat objects, one page at a time. They are the most common type of scanner. Flatbed scanners work a bit like photocopiers, which means that what is being scanned has to be kept perfectly still so as to let the scanning mechanism do its work and capture the image. They can also scan slides and film negatives. Scanners used in high-volume businesses have automatic document feeders to scan large amounts of paper documents with just one command.

Portable Scanners capture text and other data while on the move. There are full-page portable scanners that allow it to capture entire documents and handheld scanners that scan text one line at a time. These scanners are powered by batteries and the content they store is transferred to a computer using either a cable or a wireless connection.

KeyScan "Imaging Keyboard" with Integrated Document ScannerEdit

The KeyScan keyboard scanner scans a variety of paper documents and plastic cards up to 1mm thickness. The unique "No-Touch AutoScan" software allows you to place the document on the feeding tray of the imaging keyboard without touching any buttons. This multi-function sheet-feed scanner has a single USB connection for both the keyboard and built-in scanner. 600-dpi optical resolution provides high-quality images, high scan speeds and exceptional monochrome performance. This integrated KeyScan keyboard scanner saves you a lot of workspace in your workplace. The function keys provide easier access to internet connectivity. Scanning type: Sheet-feed scanner.




Scanners take images like text, photographs or even small objects and convert them into digital images. The scanner most of us have probably used is the Flatbed. For office use this by far the most cost efficient and relibale scanner.

The Hand Held is type of scanner that relies heavily on the steadiness of the hands doing the scanning. Unsteady hands dragging the device could result in the image distorting. The hand held's images are normally reproduced in monochrome. Due to it's inefficiency the hand held's popularity declined in the 90's.


One of the earliest but still useful incarnations of the scanner is called the Drum. Scanning is done by first soaking the image in oil, then wrapping it around the drum and rotating it in front of a photomultiplier tube. Although, the drum can create higher resolution and shaper images, it is not used as widely used as the flatbed due to the cost and size. However, it is still used for high end scanning tasks like archiving photos in a museum.

3 DimensionalEdit

The 3D scanner records "points" on the surface of an object to create a 3 dimensional effect like that found in video games. 3D scanning often requires numerous scans from several different angles. Like a camera it cannot record images that are unclear.

Sci Fi ScannersEdit

And then of course there are the "Scanners" with telepathic and telekinektic abilities, like those in the infamous David Cronenburg film Scanners, where people with the abiility to scan minds are used to aquire sensitive information on security systems. The movie begins with a Scanners head exploding prusumably from trying to scan the brain of someone with too much info in it.