scanner : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary


A scanner is a device that can look at a page and turn it into an electronic picture, made of millions of dots. Most scanners can see colour, but others see only shades of gray. Most scanners are maddeningly slow, especially if you are trying to scan piles of text. A scanner typically scans at 300 DPI (Dots Per Inch) (dots per inch) or 600 DPI. The higher the resolution the more detailed the image. Some low-cost scanner manufacturers advertise bogus high resolutions such as 1200 DPI. They fake this with software that just fills in by averaging a scan done at 300 DPI. The 1200 DPI image actually has no additional detail, it just takes up 16 times as much RAM/disk space. For OCR (Optical Character Recognition) (Optical Character Recognition) all you need is 300 DPI. With software such as Faxworks Pro, you can use your scanner as a FAX (Facsimile) machine to send black and white images to people who have fax machines. You can use a scanner as a sort of colour FAX. You scan an image and enclose it with your Internet email. You can also use the scanner as a very slow copier, by scanning and then printing the image. If you have a colour printer, you can use it like a colour copier. Scanned images take up enormous amounts of room. You can very quickly fill up even the largest hard disk if you keep too many images on file. However, if the images are of printed text, after they have been converted to word processor format with OCR software, they are very compact.

Eventually someone will invent the copy/paste pen. You sweep it over text on a piece of paper or a book and it will scan, ocr and store the text in the pen. You can then paste it onto the screen and the text will be inserted, as if you had typed it. You could also use it in autopaste mode. The pen could also be used much like a traditional mouse. You could also use it in reverse. Wave the pen over the screen to collect some text from the sceen, then paste onto a piece of paper, sweeping the pen, and it prints, perhaps with a miniature ink jet, the contents of the pen buffer on paper, or perhaps prints on a strip of sticky tape from an aux printer you can snap off and apply to paper or use it as a label. This function could be done without a pen, just a mouse and strip printer.

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