I’m working with an ID Automation SC5USB bar-code scanner which a client has asked to use for an inventory program. I found ID Automation on the web, and ordered their plain vanilla bar code scanner for about $150.00. They sell everything necessary for bar coding, including the printers, the software and the scanners.
To a computer, the bar-code scanner “looks” like a keyboard. I plugged it into my laptop, and it was instantly recognized, with no software required.
I opened up Notepad on the computer, and scanned the bar code on a CD jewel case that I had lying around, and shazzam! the equivalent set of numbers for the bar code were “typed” into NotePad. A highly gratifying out-of-the-box experience.
The scanner can be further “programmed” by scanning a series of bar codes contained in the instruction manual. I think my next step is going to be to create some bar code labels from my database program, and see if those can be accurately scanned.
It doesn’t matter which direction you allow the reader to read the bar code, it can read up or down.
There is a nice introduction to bar codes on wikepedia.
Here is another barcode faq.