A card reader is a data input device that reads data from a card-shaped storage medium. The first were punched card readers, which read the paper or cardboard punched cards that were used during the first several decades of the computer industry to store information and programs for computer systems. Modern card readers are electronic devices that can read plastic cards embedded with either a barcode, magnetic strip, computer chip or another storage medium.
In the 26-bit Wiegand format, bit 1 is an even parity bit. Bits 2–9 are a facility code. Bits 10–25 are the card number. Bit 26 is an odd parity bit. 1/8/16/1. Other formats have a similar structure of a leading facility code followed by the card number and including parity bits for error checking, such as the 1/12/12/1 format used by some American access control companies.

A reader radiates a 1" to 20" electrical field around itself. Cards use a simple LC circuit. When a card is presented to the reader, the reader's electrical field excites a coil in the card. The coil charges a capacitor and in turn powers an integrated circuit. The integrated circuit outputs the card number to the coil, which transmits it to the reader.