CueCat meets Arduino, works with HID boot code

CueCat meets Arduino

CueCat meets Arduino

Soon after posting Arduino barcode scanner article I started receiving questions about CueCat. Many of these cat-shaped devices were distributed free of charge in the US at the end of the dot com craze and even though company which developed and distributed them went out of business long time ago, the USB CueCats are still available for very reasonable price. Declawed CueCat with USB interface can be purchased for as little as $13 total in the US and non-modified ones for even less; at the same time, typical no-name handheld barcode scanner goes for around $25 on eBay and will be shipped from China.

I tested “declawed” USB CueCat with my code – it initializes as HID boot keyboard and works very well. No modifications are needed to the sketch from the previous article – just plug in the device and start scanning. CueCat reads many different barcode systems, including UPC and ISBN. Since CueCat is in constant scanning mode (no button needs to be pressed to initiate a scan), it can be used for applications like automated inventory control or as a part of a motion feedback circuit in CNC/robotics project.

One last advantage of CueCat I’d like to point out is low power consumption. As can be seen on a title picture, an Arduino, USB Host Shield, CueCat and HD44780-compatible LCD display can be run from a small LiPo boosted to 5V by Mintyboost from Adafruit Industries with its output connected to Arduino USB port.

CueCat is compact and inexpensive barcode scanner still available for sale despite being discontinued many years ago. It is implemented as USB HID boot device and supported by USB Host library. If you were living in the US in 2000, chances are you already have one or even several of these cat-shaped devices laying around – try it with my code and let me know if you have any issues.


Connecting barcode scanner to Arduino using USB Host Shield

Scanning barcodes using Arduino and USB Host Shield

Scanning barcodes using Arduino and USB Host Shield

An addition of Human Input Device Class support to USB Host Shield library 2.0, announced several days ago allows using powerful and inexpensive input devices with USB interface in Arduino projects. Sample sketches demonstrating sending and receiving data to one of the most useful HID device types – boot keyboard/mouse, has been released along with the library. The beauty of boot protocol lies in the simplicity of device report – a data packet containing information about button presses and mouse movements. However, samples were designed to demonstrate all features of the class and because of that, they are somewhat heavy. In real-life applications, it is often not necessary to implement each and every virtual function – only what is needed. In today’s article I will show practical application of HID boot device building a simple gadget.

Originally, HID boot protocol was meant to be used with keyboards and mice. When USB became popular, other keyboard-emulating devices, such as barcode scanners and magnetic card readers have been migrated from PS/2 standard to USB while keeping their keyboard-emulating property. As a result, many modern “not-so-human” input devices behave exactly like a keyboard including boot protocol support. A gadget that I demonstrate today is portable autonomous barcode scanner built using Arduino board, USB Host shield, handheld USB barcode scanner and LCD display (see title picture). The operation is simple – when handheld scanner button is pressed, it scans the barcode and sends it to Arduino symbol by symbol. Arduino then outputs these symbols on LCD display. LCD is erased before outputting each new barcode by tracking time between arrival of two consecutive symbols. To keep the code simple, I intentionally did not implement any data processing, however, since Arduino sketch for the gadget compiles in just a little over 14K, there is plenty of memory space left for expansion.

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