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Analogue only, Digital only, Analogue to Digital and Digital to Analogue - May 2004

Microfilm is involved with three out of four, not bad for a 1870’s [yes, eighteen hundreds] technology.

A little history

I was first introduced to microfilm in 1974 when I managed a Xerox Copy Centre in Perth, Western Australia. I was fortunate in that I had a Xerox model 1824 [C size] plain paper output from aperture card production printer [no viewer]. I also had a Xerox Copyflo at my disposal.

In later years in the early 1980’s I became a Canon dealer with the Canon CP370 & CP380 range of microfilm reader printers which produced electrostatic coated paper prints with liquid toner carried in petroleum liquid. I also had the fortunate, or was that the unfortunate experience to be the proud owner of several OCE 3710 electrostatic microfilm printers which printed A4 to A0 [DIN] or USA A through E size prints. Imtec of the UK, Ricoh of Japan Schaut & Zeutschel of Germany plus a number of other manufacturers all had products based on electrostatic coated paper prints with liquid toner carried in petroleum liquid. Wow, am I glad that this era has passed!

We also had Kodak with a 35 mm 18 X 24” output multi bath automatic photographic printer a little before the electrostatic liquid era. A friend of mine in Melbourne, Ben Tosetto at AMS has an old dark battleship grey Bell & Howell photographic paper reader printer with exposure only of the photographic paper and all manual processing done outside of the unit [an antique] in the foyer of his microfilm and scanning bureau.

Well enough on nostalgia! Oh I forgot the wonderful 3M dry silver paper units of various sizes both wet and dry processing followed by the dry pressure fusing electrostatic paper unit from Xidex, Fuji and others before the plain paper era of Canon and Minolta swept the scene, world wide in 1985 with most other manufacturers of Reader Printers rebadging the Canon and Minolta with the exception of Xidex, Agfa and a few other players.

Where are we now?

I will concentrate on the Analogue to Digital products.

Analogue to Digital: Today most micrographic reader printers are basically reader scanners which dump a digital video image to a dumb laser printer or direct connect to an intelligent laser printer via a PC with or without operator control at the PC. These products generally come from the Japanese microfilm heavyweights of Canon & Minolta or now Konica Minolta. The same holds true today with a number of micrographic players rebadging these same products as before in the reader printer era. We also have e-ImageData with what I believe is the previous Xidex base unit which has been updated and improved for the digital era and the ScreenScan product which was produced in Lichtenstein and also the USA. I bought a ScreenScan™ A3 screen size Multi-Format A3 Microfilm Scanner unit from Nanomach in Lichtenstein in early 1997 and fitted it to a previously loved Canon NP580 A3 screen size Reader/Printer using modified Zoom Lenses designed for the later model Canon NP680 and NP780 A3 screen size Reader/Printer series and it served me well as a Bureau Production scanner which produced several hundred thousands 100,000’s images up to early 1998. The ScreenScan is still currently available as a option for fitting to previously loved readers or reader/printers which do not provide the quality output required or whose clients need digital & not analogue images from Indus International, Inc in the USA. Full details are available online @ ScreenScan™ A3 Multi-Format A3 Microfilm Scanner

A new and revolutionary player to the field is the long term manufacturer of the Gideon range of down projection library microfilm readers and specialised after market manual and motorised 16/35 mm roll microfilm reader and microfiche carriers for most makes and models of reader printers and that is ST Imaging of the USA. ST Imaging has released the revolutionary model ST Imaging ST200 Digital Microfilm Viewer and Scanner for Video Monitor or PC which changes the rules for library microfilm equipment. Full details are available online @ ST Imaging ST200 Digital Microfilm Viewer and Scanner

We have addressed most, if not all of the players in this market with possibly the exception of Datagraphix and their little baby, the ImageMouse released some years past and now taken over, and I understand, improved with the use of new lenses and CCD arrays by EyeCom in the USA. I was enthusiastic at the introduction of the ImageMouse by Datagraphix and took on selling the product [the first version 0], much to my dismay. I ended up with a demo model that I eventually gave away to an associate in the hope that he may find a good home for it without ferocious cats so it could live out its life in peace. I was also hoping that one or two dollars may have passed my way on the deal but several years later, still no joy. At the upper end of this process there are excellent products from Wick & Wilson, Sunrise, nextScan, Mekel, Kodak, Fuji and some other lesser know players who also have excellent products in this high volume production range of microfilm scanners. Again in some instances these products are rebadged by other micrographic suppliers.

Something New!

This is the point I have been leading to, in that there is a new player [and some new radically different and possibly revolutionary products] on the scene at the low to mid range of output. These new microfilm scanners are from ST Imaging of the USA with two 16/35 mm roll film Scanners, the ST200 & the ST100 due for release in June 2004. I wish to advise readers of my interest in this product as the Australian distributor [even though I probably will not have seen my first unit by the time this article is published], but that being said the ST200 is unique [to my knowledge] as the ST200 uses a video camera which leverages the 20 frame per second feed for viewing via a direct connected monitor without a PC being in the circuit. A higher quality and higher resolution image is captured by a separate 3M CCD array line scanner for quality image capture and transfer to a PC for direct printing or saving to disk for editing, later printing, faxing or emailing. The PC in the circuit can share the same monitor as the ST200 base unit or have its own second monitor. The CCD array scans the image at 2,700 DPI for improved quality. Have a look at ST Imaging’s www site and make your own assessment. Full details are available online @ ST Imaging ST200 Digital Microfilm Viewer and Scanner

Is this product so revolutionary that it will cause the big iron boxes of mirrors and extensive light paths to be destined to end up as historical relics? Only time will tell!

Happy Microfilming! Or is that digitising?

Laurie Varendorff ARMA

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president and national director, has been involved in records management for 30 years. He has his own consulting and training business near Perth, Western Australia, and has tutored in recordkeeping and archival storage and preservation at Perth’s Edith Cowan University. Phone: +61 (0)8 9291 6925; mobile: 0417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff

The author, Laurie Varendorff gives permission for the redistribution or republishing of this article by individuals and non profit professional organisations without cost based on the condition that he as well as the URL of the article are recognised at the introduction of the article when redistributed or republished.

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