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1. a device, usually electronic, used to measure or sample the distribution of some quantity or condition in a particular system, region, or area
2. any of various devices used in medical diagnosis to obtain an image of an internal organ or part
3. short for optical scanner


(computer science)
A device that converts an image of something outside a computer, such as text, a drawing, or a photograph, into a digital image that it sends into the computer for display or further processing.
That part of a facsimile transmitter which systematically translates the densities of the elemental areas of the subject copy into corresponding electric signals.
Any device that examines an area or region point by point in a continuous systematic manner, repeatedly sweeping across until the entire area or region is covered; for example, a flying-spot scanner.
A device that automatically samples, measures, or checks a number of quantities or conditions in sequence, as in process control.


An input device that takes in an optical image and digitises it into an electronic image represented as binary data. This can be used to create a computerised version of a photo or illustration.

A scanner may be linked to optical character recognition software allowing printed documents to be converted to electronic text without having to type them in at a keyboard.




(1) A synonym for antivirus program.

(2) A smartphone application that reads barcodes. See mobile tagging.

(3) An optical device that reads a printed page or transparency and converts it into a graphics image for the computer. The scanner does not recognize or differentiate in any manner the content of the material it is scanning. Everything is converted into a bitmapped image, which is a pattern of dots. See bitmapped graphics.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Optical character recognition systems use scanners to capture printed text and convert it into computer-readable characters for editing. See OCR and document scanner.

Scanners and Cameras
Scanners are similar to digital cameras, except cameras can focus into infinity. Desktop scanners have physical dimensions that determine the size and bulk of the material that can be scanned. Automatic feeders are used to scan stacks of paper, typically for OCR jobs.

Scanners are rated in dots per inch (dpi), whereas cameras are rated in total pixels. Both scanners and cameras have an optical resolution (the real lens resolution) and an interpolated resolution computed by software. The higher the optical, the better.

Scanners are also rated by the maximum color depth of each pixel (how many colors can be stored). At minimum, scanners support 24-bit color, and many go up to 48 bits. See optical resolution, interpolated resolution, 4K resolution, document scanner, flatbed scanner, sheet-fed scanner, handheld scanner, drum scanner, slide scanner, photo scanner and digital camera.

Desktop Scanners
The flatbed scanner is the most common desktop scanner. A transparency adapter provides a light source from the top for scanning 35mm slides and film negatives. Slide scanners are specialized for only slides and film (see slide scanner).

High-End Drum Scanner
Drum scanners are used for commercial graphics production and applications that require the highest quality scanning (see drum scanner). This earlier Howtek scanner provided an optical resolution up to 4,000 dpi. (Image courtesy of Howtek, Inc.)
References in periodicals archive ?
In addition to a maximum 600dpi optical resolution, both new scanners incorporate Panasonic's unique multi-color dropout technology to enhance optical character recognition accuracy and shrink file sizes.
Our evaluation confirms that the MICR read capability of small check scanners is inferior to the high speed capture equipment used in centralized capture," said Ray Higgins, Silver Bullet's director of business development.
Alerts notify support teams when scanners are "sick" and are in need of service.
Peacemaker automatically detects and repairs MICR quality problems commonly associated with inexpensive check scanners.
In 2003, Visioneer combined its leading scanner technology with Xerox's brand recognition to develop the Xerox DocuMate series of workgroup scanners.
All of the Canon LiDE scanners use a small, low powered LED light source and the integration of lens elements directly on the scanning sensor to substantially reduce the number and size of individual components needed to produce a scanner.
In the academic environment, this highly sophisticated application of biometric technology can be found in some of the 60 biometric scanners at the University of Georgia.
These devices, known as pen scanners or digital highlighters, have evolved from a tethered peripheral connected to a PC to a standalone information appliance.
Students are using scanners to import images into school reports, while small-business owners are storing documents digitally and, with the aid of optical character recognition, or OCR, software, importing multiple pages of text directly into a standard word processing program for easy editing.
The capability for multiple scanners has been built into the software.

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