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Barcode scanners record and translate barcodes from the image you recognize into alphanumeric digits. The scanner then sends that information along to a computer database, either through a wired connection or wirelessly (depending on the model). Those digits refer to a particular item, and scanning the numbers and bars pulls up an entry in the database with further information such as the price, how many of this item in stock, a description of the item and possibly a picture for reference.
A full-body scanner is a device that detects objects on a person’s body for security screening purposes, without physically removing clothes or making physical contact. Depending on the technology used, the operator may see an alternate-wavelength image of the person’s naked body, or merely a cartoon-like representation of the person with an indicator showing where any suspicious items were detected. For privacy and security reasons, the display is generally not visible to other passengers, and in some cases is located in a separate room where the operator cannot see the face of the person being screened. Unlike metal detectors, full-body scanners can detect non-metal objects, which became an increasing concern after various airliner bombing attempts in the 2000s.
Scanning documents doesn’t require high resolution or color depth, but scanning photos does. Many all-purpose scanners can also scan photos, meaning that you don’t need a separate device to handle your photographs. But if you need a scanner primarily to digitize film negatives or slides, a photo scanner is a better deal (even if it is considerably more expensive than an all-purpose scanner). Photo scanners include specialized technology so that they can deal with slides and negatives; they also have built-in software to clean up old photos. Decent photo scanners will start at about $130 (and go way up from there). The Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanner, for example, is a good photo scanner. It will cost you more, but photo scanners like these come with adapters for scanning slides and negatives, and they scan at exceptionally high resolutions, compared to other types of scanners.
Sheetfed scanners are smaller than flatbed scanners; as the name implies, you feed a document or photo into the scanner’s automatic document feeder, or ADF, rather than place it on top of the platen one photo or document at a time. You’ll win back some of that desktop space with a sheetfed scanner but you may sacrifice some resolution in the process. If you’re only scanning documents, however, it may be a worthwhile trade, especially if you’ve got a lot of them since you can feed them in bunches. With a flatbed scanner, you’ll have to scan one page at a time (unless it comes with an automatic document feeder). Sheetfed scanners start around $300 and get increasingly more expensive, depending on speed and features. Most sheetfed scanners these days are quite fast and loaded with features for capturing and processing data.
Portable scanners are small enough to bring on the road. In fact, some are small enough to put in your pocket; pen scanners are just a bit bigger than fountain pens and can scan the text of a document line by line. Some are as wide as a page and roll easily down the page. They’re not going to give high-resolution scans and so aren’t good for scanning photographs or other applications where you need a high-quality result. Since they’re not cheaper than flatbed scanners, they’re probably only useful if you are a student, a researcher, or a spy. Figure on spending about $150 for one. Also, figure that quality and accuracy are based largely on how steady and accurate you can hold the device while implementing a scan.
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