The unified transfer function approach to the design of laser barcode scanner signal acquisition hardware is considered. The treatment of seemingly disparate system areas such as the optical train, the scanning spot, the electrical filter circuits, the effects of noise, and printing errors is presented using linear systems theory. Such important issues as determination of depth of modulation, filter specification, tolerancing of optical components, and optimi-zation of system performance in the presence of noise are discussed. The concept of effective spot size to allow for impact of optical system and analog processing circuitry upon depth of modulation is introduced. Considerations are limited primarily to Gaussian spot profiles, but also apply to more general cases. Attention is paid to realistic bar-code symbol models and to implications with respect to printing tolerances.