Years and years ago, Radio Shack launched their CueCat scanner technology. I won't go into the history of this terrible business plan, but needless to say the idea took off like a lead balloon. You can get the brief history of the failed device on wikipedia. Sometime later, probably around 2002 or 2003 I purchased a PS/2 model of the fabled barcode scanner, a scanner that I still have. I never really used it though.
Recently I purchased a USB model of the CueCat. I had no idea USB models were ever available, but I found plenty of online sources selling them. I bought mine from mavin.com. I just got it in the mail this afternoon and was able to "declaw" the cuecat in about a minute. The process of declawing is simple enough and, in short, it allows the cuecat to output only the barcode information in plain text (versus an obfuscated and "proprietary" format). After declawing I can now use the cat to scan any barcode. I hope to use it for cataloging any books I own, as well as selling used textbooks online after each semester.
Grendel sez: Neat, but otherwise useless, I've learned that Google will take UPC numbers and link to various UPC databases to tell you about the item you just scanned. Interesting.
update: 10/30 - Apparently the patent for :Cuecat was still outstanding until recently.