When barcodes first began being used by stores to improve customer service, a device was needed to read the labels. A technology company came out with the first barcode readers and soon many other companies had thrown their barcode reader models into the ring. Today there are three primary distinct types of barcode readers. Each of the barcode readers has a general purpose and specific strengths and weaknesses.

Pen type barcode readers are the least expensive and the simplest of the barcode readers. They have no moving parts and only a light that is dragged along the barcode, which is then read. Due to the fact that the barcode reader must touch the label and the fact that pen readers are human powered, they are not always the most effective. Pen barcode readers are the best option only when keeping costs low is a priority.

Laser barcode readers are similar to pen barcode readers except that they have a larger range and do not need to actually touch the barcode to read it. Laser barcode readers are more expensive than pen types but the additional cost is worth the lessened aggravation. This may be why laser barcode readers are currently the most popular style on the market.

Charge Coupled Device (CCD) barcode readers are different from pen and laser barcode readers in the way that they read the light from the barcode. CCD barcode readers are limited in range, allowing no more than 3 inches between it and the barcode. CCD barcode readers are also held back by the width of the reader head which will not allow the barcode readers to scan labels wider than the reader face.

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