Barcodaphobia – An unreasonable fear of Barcodes

There’s nothing mysterious about a barcode. A barcode is a machine readable representation of information. It is usually in dark ink on a light background. There are many different types of barcodes, known as symbology. Each symbology uses a different method to determine the start and end of the series of lines used to create the barcode. The most common type of barcode used by school photographers and schools is Code 39. The good news is that modern barcode readers are capable of interpreting all of the different types of barcodes.

There are basically two different types of barcode readers, a pen shaped device and a gun. Additionally, there are three different common interfaces to connect the barcode reader to your computer, USB, Serial, and KeyBoard PS2. For the school photographer, I recommend the gun type using a USB connection.


Once the barcode scanner is connected to the computer, it requires no special software or drivers. Text can be scanned right into a simple text editor and work just fine. If the barcode scanner doesn’t just work, it is more often the barcode then the scanner. A good test of the barcode reader, itself, is to open up something like notepad and scan the UPC code from something laying around your office. The information from the barcode should populate right into notepad as though you typed it in using the keyboard. Update: 3-13-08 – Scanners that hook through the serial port, do need software to make them function correctly.  Please contact the barcode manufacturer to find software that will allow you to scan into anything.

Creating a readable barcode is a little more tricky. You can download a barcode font from the Internet for free, that can be installed as a text font on your computer and used in a program like Microsoft Word as a replacement of a human readable font. In order to get this to work, the trick is that you must place an asterisk (*) in front and in back of the series of characters that you are making into a barcode.

There is software available that automatically does this for you and places them into a format that can be printed out onto labels, etc. All of the software in PhotoLynx can create barcodes for just about any purpose, including School ID Cards, Package Units, Proof Sheets, Camera Cards, Cume Stripes, and so on.

A barcode makes it easy to pull up information within software for locating a specific student, image, or order. The information embedded into the barcode is related to the subject or image in the database. When the barcode is read into the software, it can locate that record instantly. The same information can be typed in by hand, but a barcode is much quicker and accurate then searching for the information by hand.

A Google search should turn up plenty of USB Gun type barcode scanners for under $100.00. I have seen them online for as low as $40.00.


One Response to Barcodaphobia – An unreasonable fear of Barcodes

  1. flea control says:

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