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2007 - A watershed year for the Micrographic / Imaging Industry - March 2008

It is my honest belief that 2007 will go down in the history of the microfilm / imaging industry as the year when THE Desktop Microfilm Scanner PRODUCT was released internationally to the cries of relief from the silent mass of users of microfilm equipment worldwide.

The public have been bombarded with the announcement of the [greatly exaggerated] DEATH of MICROGRAPHICS since the 1980’s with the release of the IBM Personal Computer and the DOS operating system from a new start-up organisation Microsoft and its leader William (Bill) H. Gates III. First, a little micrographic history starting from around the 1970’s. And who better to provide you with that history but yours truly as my five year old granddaughter continues to remind me. Grandpa you are VERY OLD and you will DIE soon. My mission in life it to prove her misguided thoughts wrong for as many years possible.

My first introduction to Micrographics was in 1974 as the State Manager of the Rank Xerox [the UK part of the Xerox empire] CopiCentre located in Perth Western Australia with the Xerox model 1824 a DIN A2 = ANSI 18 x 24 inch output aperture card printer [no viewer] & the model copyflo high speed 16 mm roll microfilm printer which printed onto continuous rolls of paper from around 157 mm = 5 inches up to 330 mm= 13 inches wide which you later cut into pages with a hand trimmer. Great fun!!!

In 1976 I made a giant leap backwards to the Carl Zeizz 16 / 35 mm enlarger & photographic rapid access processor to produce up to DIN - A1 @ 841 x 594 mm = ANSI D @ 24 x 36 inch size, chemically processed prints & transparencies. We produced hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of this output via hand produced images from 16 & 35 mm microfilm of maps, drawings but mainly seismic data for the petroleum exploration industry. In the late 1970’s & early 1980’s the micrographic industry had a range of photographic, heat processed, electrostatic [wet & dry] equipped reader printers with various size print outputs from a number of American & European manufactures. Those that come to mind and most familiar to this audience will be Kodak, 3M – Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing , B&H - Bell & Howell & Micro Design of the USA & Imtec, Oce, Regma, Schaut, Microbox of Europe, plus Ricoh of Japan & various other organisations.

The early 1980’s saw major changes in the process used in reader printers to more user friendly table or desktop models using the liquid electrostatic process with premixed liquids of the black toner & clear carrier in a single bottle from Canon & Minolta, Bell & Howell. 3M continued their dry silver paper revenue stream with the model 500 for various microfilm formats & later the 800 for microfiche plus a range of 35 mm engineering drawing models. Then the Fuji reader printer arrived on the scene with their dry electrostatic single component toner models the FMRP30 & 40 which provided Fiji with market leadership for a short period of time until the arrival of the plain paper reader printer era. I observed several Fuji model FMRP 30’s still operating in the main Winnipeg Public Library in October 2007.

The mid 1980’s saw a giant leap forward in the design and ease of use of reader printers with the release of the compact PLAIN PAPER Canon model PC70 followed by the model PC80 [with A4 size print output] based on the successful throw away toner & drum cartridge of the PC20 photocopier. Canon stole the show with these two units plus the larger A3 output models starting with the NP580 & NP680 uni mode units with the addition of the bi-modal NP780 units. Minolta was in catch up mode with the release of their RP500 series of plain paper reader printers. As an example in the period 1985 through 2000 in Western Australia in excess of 900 Canon Plain Paper reader printers were installed while Minolta’s installation base was a little over 100 units or around a 10 to 1 ratio.

Nothing much changed until the late 1990s early 2000s with both Canon & Minolta going Digital with the scanning of the microfilm & printing direct to non intelligent laser printers via SCSI interfaces. Later both Canon & Minolta provided the capability to save the scanned microfilm images in various file formats to hard disk or the media of choice at the time.

Over the period commencing in the 1980 the big USA & European players saw no future in micrographics & effectively left the market to the Japanese & Fuji, Minolta & Canon who thrived with new technology & the open marketplace vacated by the US giants Kodak, B&H - Bell & Howell & 3M. In the 1990s & later when they realised that they had vacated the market too soon Kodak, B&H - Bell & Howell & 3M all rebadged products from Canon & Minolta. Some manufacturers still rebadge these Japanese products today.

More recently in the early 2000’s we have observed the entry of smaller lower volume manufacturers entering the micrographic market as the majors US, European & Japanese players lose interest & direction in the micrographic field of micrographic equipment manufacture & marketing. Minolta signalled their departure from the micrographic area in Australia in February 2006 when the national distributor changed to the distribution of the Canon micrographic product range and the Minolta micrographic equipment ceased be marketed in this country.

Enter the ImageMouse via Anacomp the manufacturer & Kodak the reseller [at least in Australia]. The least said about the ImageMouse the better. I sold one in 2002 & the client still hates me for that digression. I gave the ImageMouse demonstration unit to a colleague on the understanding that if he sold it he was to make me a gift of part of the monies paid. It is now five plus years later & I have yet to see any funds.

The ST200 from ST Imaging was released in mid 2004 & was the initial digital viewing / scanning / printing design concept that worked that provided a break with the standard BIG IRON products from Canon & Minolta. The ST200 gained good traction with Public & University Libraries being the main market for the product.

OK enough about the recent past. What about the basis of this article as 2007 being the watershed year for the Micrographic / Imaging Industry? With great fanfare & with the bell towers tolling its virtue, the MICROFILM PRODUCT OF THE 21ST CENTURY [in my not so humble opinion] was released to the international micrographic market in January 2007.

That product is the ScanPro model 1000 Digital Microfilm Viewer / Scanner / Printer and its PowerScan Software. What is the BIG DEAL about the ScanPro model 1000 Digital Microfilm Viewer / Scanner / Printer and its PowerScan Software?

If you have never been exposed to the features & benefits offered by the ScanPro 1000 then do yourself a favour & track one down to have a look at its revolutionary capabilities.

I have been privileged to be provided with some history regarding the birth of the concept of this product dating back to the early 1990’s the progression to today’s wonder product by Jim Westoby, Todd Kahle and the team at e-Image Data.

The details are provided below and Jim states:

Here is some development background.

Our interest in a video based microfilm product goes back to the mid 1990's The recurring stumbling block was always finding the right package of technologies at the right price point to make a video based product viable.

It was early 2004 when we were first able to but a technology package together at an acceptable price point that matched with our vision of a competitive video based scanner. That was our milestone event for moving forward to a product specification phase. And, that is the point at which we started the detailed research to make sure we tied down the product performance specifications.

The (yet to be named product) was the most heavily researched (to date) product that e-Image Data had ever designed.

The specifications were split into two groups:

1. General, we started with:

2. Specifications defined and based on user feedback:

For this part of the specification e-Image Data demonstrated product concepts, provided focus studies, and gathered input & feedback from over two hundred [200] public use patrons, librarians, and a mix of industry users.

Although we got many of the specifications right the first time, there were others we had to rework, some several times, to get the required results. Throughout the design phase there was a great deal of effort centered on incorporating user input. This did slow the development process but in hindsight it resulted in a better product.

Here is what we incorporated into the product design based on our customer research: