QL-1000 Quicklink Handheld Scanner
By David Podmajersky, December 21, 2000
This handheld, battery powered scanner is making a lot of noise
among genealogists because of its portability and ability to scan
text from books, and transfer into your PC or laptop.
In the course of my genealogical wanderings, I have come to appreciate
optical character recognition (OCR, for short) software. Anyone
who has typed a lengthy obituary or other important document into
their PC knows what I mean. I can pump out a paragraph in short
order when the subject comes from my brain but copying any sort
of text from a book is always a painful process.
A scanner with OCR software is a great boon to the even the casual
genealogist. However, one is likely to raise more than a few unfriendly
eyebrows with the commotion caused setting up a desktop PC on one
of the spacious tables in his local library. Even if he doesn't
lose his library privileges over the fiasco, he will most likely
not be able to find enough power outlets to make the thing work
unless he also brings a portable car battery. Its not a pretty picture!
Into the fray comes the OCR pen. This device is about the size
of a large highlighter and almost as easy to use. The OCR pen runs
on regular batteries and fits nicely into your breast pocket and
even I was able to figure out how to scan text in under 5 minutes.
I heard about OCR pens from a friend and decided I had to have
one immediately. I purchased the most highly recommended product,
Wizcom Quicklink Pen - Portable Optical Pen Scanner, from Buy.com
for $125 and received it a few days later. The pen came with not
only the usual operator's manual, but also a "quick start" guide
which had me scanning in minutes.
At a Glance
Price: $125.00 to $150.00
Capacity: 100 pages of text
Connectivity: PC, laptop, PDA, mobile phone
Resolution: 300 x 300 DPI
Languages: Recognizes 8 different languages
Lest I forget, it does take some doing to get used to lining up
the text with the correct point on the pen. I was able to get the
hang of it after an hour or two of steady scanning but each time
I sit down to scan in a few lines I find myself making errors for
the first few minutes. I should also note that if you are a person
who suffers from any sort of arthritic pain in the hands, this product
is not for you as the strain on the hand is a bit more than that
caused by very heavy mouse usage.
I started with some pretty large and clear text on a piece of paper
positioned on my kitchen table. My first scan was about 25 or so
characters and the pen only made one error which I corrected fairly
easily after a few false starts. Next I scanned a thin pamphlet
with very small type. Again I sat comfortably at my kitchen table
and rolled the pen over the text at a nice even speed. This time
the pen made 3 errors in about the same number of characters. Correcting
multiple characters was a bit more difficult at first but once you
get the hang of it, its not too bad, though somewhat time consuming.
The pen has a nice feature which allows the user to quickly disgard
and rescan really bad results when the user's hand slips a bit.
My next forays with my new found best friend involved text I found
in some thicker books. First I scanned with a book left to its own
devices sitting on a table. Unfortunately the pen made many errors
so I wrestled the book as flat as I could on the table with my free
hand. This time the pen did better but not particularly well. It
seemed to keep missing the same characters and character sequences.
The pen also frequently made CAPS out of lower case and lower case
out of caps. Lower case L's were a problem as the pen frequently
substituted numer ones for l's. The pen also had some trouble picking
up the letters Q, R, E and o, e, r. Even when I gave it my all and
got the book very flat, there were many errors probably caused by
the curvature of the page near the spine.
I really wanted this thing to work for me because there are so
many times I am working at the library and need to copy a couple
paragraphs or a few lines from several pages of a book in the reference
section. I despise having to trek out to the car and lift up my
floor mats in a search for coins. But after a few days my wife began
to make fun of my repeated attempts to scan some fairly simple though
lengthy text from a very thick book. She let me know that she would
be happy to contact Buy.com and request a refund. After a day or
two of this I agreed that my enthusiasm alone would not make this
thing work for me.
For now at least I carry a little plastic bag filled with nickels,
dimes, and quarters for the copy machine. I bring home pages and
pages of new copies and sit at my HP Scanjet desk top scanner happily
scanning away. The number of errors are fairly minimal on a desk
top scanner and the money I almost spent on the OCR pen pays for
a whole lotta copies!
- David Podmajersky
David is the creator of DistantCousin.com,
a genealogy website for helping people locate distant cousins,
including online queries, military databases, cemetery transcriptions,
and surname resource centers.
Purchase this product online at Amazon.com