Even today, people fear barcode scanners

April 15, 2010

As part of being a huge nerd product manager/marketing dude, I need to keep up with random tech blogs & journals to see if there are “emerging markets where we can leverage our unique offerings.” Or it’s fun to read articles about POS gear from people outside of the industry. Take your pick. Case in point, this article about a girl in Pennsylvania who claims a barcode scanner caused burns on her face and gave her Tourette’s syndrome. It’s very interesting that technology that is very much integrated into our daily lives can still be so foreign to a large portion of the populace.

After many many episodes at work of a coworker saying “Hey, check out this page” only to look up and get blasted in the face with a 2D imager’s techno flash dance party illumination, I feel like I can state that no, light from a barcode scanner cannot cause physical harm. And that revenge is best served when they’re on the phone.

The article also reminded me of a customer interaction right after I started working here. It was the owner of a business with his lawyer on a conference call, wanting to verify/dispute the claim that one of their employees suffered eye damage from looking directly into an LED barcode scanner. I had been working here all of… a month… so I had a little inkling that it wouldn’t hurt but I still asked my supervisor, who promptly started laughing. Being the uninformed brand new employee I was, I said that maybe if the person stared into the beam all day everyday for a year, they could quite possibly have something that happens that is different from if they didn’t do that. Pretty vague, but I like it. I was also trying not to giggle at that point.

The beam LED barcode scanners emit can’t hurt you, otherwise LED lightbulb manufacturers would be in hot water. Laser barcode scanners still have the same warning you see on laser pointers, and that’s because it’s more focused energy. Some of the stronger scanners (class II & class III lasers) could cause problems with prolonged exposure, but manufacturers wouldn’t build a product to be used by adolescents if it could cause blindness. That’s how they go out of business.

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