2008-MARCH: 2007 – A watershed year for the Micrographic – Scanning, Imaging Industry

It is my honest belief that 2007 will go down in the history of the Microfilm Scanning Imaging Industry as the year when THE ScanPro 1000 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 belief in the 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.

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 A 2 = 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 – NOT !!!

In 1976 I made a giant leap backwards to the Carl Zeiss 16 / 35 mm enlarger & photographic rapid access processor to produce up to DIN – A 1 @ 841 x 594 mm = ANSI D @ 24 x 36 inches 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 will be 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 plus Bell & Howell.

3M continued their dry silver paper revenue stream with the model 500 for various microfilm formats & later the model 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 FMRP 30 & 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 PC 70 followed by the model PC 80 [ with A 4 size print output ] based on the successful throw away toner & drum cartridge of the PC 20 photocopier.

Canon stole the show with these two units plus the larger A 3 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 RP 500 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 1990′s early 2000′s 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 1990′s & 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 of the units in 2002 & the client still hates me for that digression. I gifted 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 ST 200 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 ST 200 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 Scanning 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?

1. The ScanPro 1000’s size with its low profile & dimensions (H x W x L) of only 7.5 inches x 12 inches x 16 inches (190 mm x 305 mm x 406 mm) sized footprint fits almost anywhere.

2. Its reliability the ScanPro 1000 has shown its capability to run & keep running in casual & production environments.

3. Its lens range e.g. 7 x magnification low to 54 x magnification high or the new 8 x magnification low to 100 x magnification high capability.

4. Its ability to View / Scan & Print from Negative, Positive microfilm plus Micro Opaques and provide the best image quality available from any desktop, walk up user device from any manufacturer.

5. Its ease of use – there are no knobs or buttons on the ScanPro model 1000 Digital Microfilm Viewer / Scanner / Printer, all operator interaction is via the PC Monitor, Keyboard & Mouse.

6. Its setup and instant recall of any microfilm type or micro opaque format in your collection.

When an end user / client opens the onscreen Icon Folder & selects the format required, the darkness or lightness, film type [ negative or positive ], orientation e. g. landscape or portrait, right reading or correction of a mirror image [  if the roll film is wound upside down on the spool across the holding  ], zoom, auto focus, scan type [  greyscale or black &white  ], scan size, DPI setting at 100, 200, 300, 400 or 600 are preset plus the ability to zoom into any section of the image via the onscreen magnifier are available for the end user / clients convenience.

7. The viewer / monitor screen can be 15 inch, 17 inch, 20 inch, 24 inch or higher at the end user / clients discretion.

8. The ability to print out to a local or network printer of choice, be it DIN A 4 = ANSI A, A 3= ANSI B, A 2= ANSI C, A 1= ANSI D, or A 0= ANSI E SIZE.

9. The ability of the PowerScan Software to save an image in a range of file formats in single or multipage e.g. .PDF single page or .PDF multipage in one file ID.

10. The ability of the PowerScan Software to save an image to a local or remote Hard Drive, a Thumb or USB drive, or to email or fax images across the office or around the world via the internet.

11. To be able to drive the ScanPro 1000 & the PowerScan Software remotely from anywhere across the globe via the internet.

E. g. You as the end user / client do not have to be at the ScanPro 1000 to experience its wonders.

If the ScanPro 1000 is in New York and you reside in London, presto you can run the ScanPro 1000 from your location at no cost of ownership.

WOW!!!! 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:

A. The film movement and monitor image had to move together in “lock step”. This was an absolute must.

We had seen too many product failures because this had not been accomplished.

B. It had to provide a high resolution image at all magnifications.

C. Scan times had to be short.

D. Had to be designed for the rigors of public use.

E. Had to be a small desktop, compact operation.

F. Had to be a platform for product expansion.

G. The software needed to be predicated on exceptional ease-of-use.

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:

1. A single zoom lens to cover the entire range of magnifications ( nobody wanted to change lenses ).

2. Simple to operate at every step of the process. Our approach went something like this: why can’t it be done in one step? If it can be done in one step, why can’t it be done automatically without user intervention?

3. Large, simple-to-use graphical button interface with tool tips.

4. Automatic background processing for image enhancement, image movement, brightness, contrast, straightening, cropping.

5. What-you-see-is-what-you-get - WYSIWYG operation to eliminate the need for multiple scans.

6. Secure screen LOCK mode for public use.

7. Customisable tools sets.

8. Save and restore settings.

9. On-screen HELP.

We can say for certain that without the customer based research during development, e-Image Data would have missed some of these points and run the risk that the hardware design would have not allowed them to be added later.

We can also add that it took much longer and more money to get to market than we had anticipated but the reward has been the product acceptance and excitement that we hear from patrons.

The ScanPro model 1000 Digital Microfilm Viewer / Scanner / Printer and its PowerScan Software along with Jim Westoby & Todd Kahle of e-Image Data ( the product manufacturer ) will [  in this reviewer’s opinion  ] be the unit and designers that will receive the votes from end users / clients, resellers & micrographic specialists to allow their induction into the – Micrographic Hall of Fame – if such an entity existed.

The year 2007 will [  or at least should  ] go down in history as the time when the merging of analogue & digital technology became a reality and not the myth it has proven to be in the past.

Happy Scanning of your microfilm with the NOW  in 2014 ScanPro Range of models 3000 – 2000 & 1100, Laurie Varendorff ARMA.

The Author

Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president & national director, has been involved in records management and the micrographic industry for 40 years.

Laurie has his own microfilm equipment sales & support organisation – Digital Microfilm Equipment – DME – and a – records & information management – RIM – consulting & training business – The Varendorff Consultancy – TVC – located near Perth, Western Australia, & has tutored & written course material in recordkeeping & archival storage & preservation for Perth’s Edith Cowan University – ECU.

You can contact Laurie Varendorff @ email @ Laurie Varendorff ARMA; or Phone: Australia @ 0417 094 147 – International @ +61 417 094 147 at Digital Microfilm Equipment – DME.

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.

SPECIAL NOTE: Use of this article by publishers, commercial, government, or educational organisations requires a financial agreement to be negotiated with Laurie as the copyright holder for this work.