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What is TWAIN

Monday, November 22nd, 2004 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms, Hardware & Peripherals

I just got a digital camera and was trying to download my photos on to my computer when I received a “not TWAIN compliant” error? What is TWAIN?

TWAIN is an industry wide standard that allows a computer to communicate with a graphic device, such as a scanner or digital camera. Nearly all scanners, digital cameras, and web cams are TWAIN compliant.

Devices that are not TWAIN compliant will usually only work with very specific software, which usually comes with the device, while a TWAIN compliant device will usually work with a wide range of software.

For instance, Microsoft Word supports acquiring an image from a twain compliant camera or scanner, as does Word Perfect, Adobe PhotoShop, Scansoft Paperport, OmniPage Pro, and so on.

Such software is known as TWAIN compliant software in order to differentiate it from the TWAIN compliant device (hardware). The cables used for the TWAIN device must also be TWAIN compliant. For instance, a standard printer cable is not TWAIN compliant and will not work correctly with a scanner even if the connections fit. (Devices and cables will be marked, on the package or on the hardware itself, as TWAIN compliant, if they are.)

TWAIN compliancy also comes with a number designation, which simply indicates if the hardware or software meets the CURRENT standards, or if it is an older legacy product. The current standard is for 1184 TWAIN compliance.

On an interesting note, the debate rages on as to the origins of the word “TWAIN.” Was it born as an acronym for Technology Without An Interesting Name or was the name originally lifted from Kipling’s “and never the twain shall meet…” referring to the difficulty of connecting PC’s and scanners?

— Lee Trulove

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