A keyboard is an interface that allows a device without a keyboard to be connected to a computer as if it were sending data from the keyboard. Since most data entry software is set up to take data from a keyboard, it is necessary to use a keyboard wedge if you want to connect a peripheral, such as a barcode reader or magnetic stripe reader, and send information to the program. . The wedge is so called because the physical version “wedge” between the keyboard and the computer. The keyboard is connected to the wedge, which in turn is connected to the computer, so that data can be entered through the keyboard or other peripheral.
With a keyboard, barcode readers can be used to enter data into a computer.
Keyboard software versions also exist. These programs take the information sent by the external input device, usually connected via a COM or USB port, and send it through the operating system’s keyboard buffer, so that the computer thinks the information was sent through the keyboard.
Magnetic card readers can be connected to a computer with a keyboard.
A keyboard can be useful when using software with a peripheral for which the software was not designed. While some data entry software is written specifically with barcode readers or magnetic stripe readers in mind, most are written with the assumption that a keyboard will be the only device used to enter data. For efficiency, however, many companies use barcodes instead of manually entering the unit code, and since most people do not read barcodes, some method of translating the barcode into its constituent information and passing it to the computer as alphanumeric data was needed. The keyboard wedge was developed in the early days of computing, by a programmer at Altek Instruments in Great Britain.
Older keyboard wedges are built to interface with a computer via a PS/2 port, as this is the traditional keyboard port. Newer versions often offer an interface for both a PS/2 cable and a USB cable, as USB keyboards become more and more standard. Some wedges are built to interface with proprietary ports such as IBM’s Port 17 or OCIA. This type of keyboard is increasingly difficult to find, but there are still small companies to fill the niche.
When a keyboard is in use, a computer keyboard can still be used to enter data.