There are four types of barcode scanners available, wands (shaped like a pen), laser scanners, CCD scanners and camera based barcode scanners. Each type uses a slightly different technology to scan and decode the barcode. Wands are the cheapest option, requiring the wand to be swept over the barcode during scanning. Laser and CCD scanners are what you typically see at retail stores, and camera's are used where multiples items are scanned at one time such as on production lines. Different barcode scanners can read different barcode symbologies, so it is important to verify that the scanner you are considering purchasing supports the barcode symbology you will be using.
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