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A system for the automatic recognition of two-dimensional patterns is described; recognition taking place as images of the patterns move in a rapid nonstop manner across a stationary scanning unit which takes the form of a bank of photodiodes. Although emphasis is placed on the recognition of alphabetic and numeric characters, the principles developed are applicable to the recognition of more general types of two-dimensional patterns. The theoretical principles on which the system is based are developed in Section II and experimental and computer simulation results are given and discussed in Section III. In Section IV the difficulties involved in the manual design of the recognition "logic" are considered and reference is made to a machine algorithm for the automatic design and testing of a complete recognition system. Some results obtained when using the algorithm are presented.