CueCat Barcode Scanner
Back in 2000, Radio Shack, Wired magazine, Forbes, Parade magazine, and others distributed the :CueCat, a free barcode scanner from a now-defunct company named Digital Convergence. Originally the CueCat was designed to be used only in conjunction with Digital Convergence's website. They were definitely not designed to be free bar code scanners. Not surprisingly however, people used them as such.
Some of us looked at the CueCat and knew it could be modded into a general purpose bar code scanner. A free one. A good place to start is Rich Goldstein's CatNip decoding software. It turns the CueCat into a free, general purpose bar code reader. Then when you scan a bar code, the scanner will return just the bar code data, not the big chunk of garbled stuff that Digital Convergence spits out.
Azalea Software's Jerry Whiting went on the record at the time with his (admittedly biased) perspective in this Seattle Weekly story. All said and done, if you're still interested in playing with the CueCat, download our free QTools for Windows or the free tar.gz version.
While we find the CueCat an interesting toy (after all, we do sell barcode software), it has been relegated to a footnote in the history of barcodes and auto ID. We're big fans of consumer auto-ID but the CueCat was not the approach. Read our CueCat Postmortem to learn where we stand. Sidenote: eBay is full of jailbroken CueCats.