Hang on a minute, microfilm is the same flavour it has been now since the 1930’s, 16 mm roll film in open spools or 3M or ANSI cartridges, 35 mm roll film in open spools or ( if you had a Kodak 1824 reader printer ) those wonderful 35 mm C type cartridges, jackets, aperture cards and from the 1960’s microfiche.
What has changed or is changing?
Since the introduction of 35 mm microfilm in the early 1930’s it has been used extensively for the microfilming of newspapers since 1938 and the microfilm was accessed on readers or printed from reader printers ( using a photographic process ) since that time by Universities, Libraries, Archives and Genealogy centres and like institutions.
Things got much better in the 1950’s and 1960’s with the commercial introduction of wet electrostatic photocopier type reader printers and the 3M dry silver paper units and then really accelerated with the introduction of the dry pressure fuse electrostatic reader printers from Fuji and others in the 1970 and 80’s.
With the introduction of plain paper reader printers in the early to mid 1980’s things really began to hum.
Universities, Libraries, Archives and Genealogy centres and others used reader printers and to a greater extent with photocopiers ( due to their higher volume of prints produced ) as revenue-raising projects to pay for the hardware or at least to get some return on their investments by charging for the prints produced via the use of coin boxes and more recently charge card systems.
Due to the lower volumes produced on the reader printers it is questionable if anyone ever broke even on the return on investment and covered overheads with this charging for the prints produced.
With the introduction of the first-generation digital microfilm scanner printers e. g. the Canon MP100 and other digital microfilm products in the early to mid 1990’s nothing much changed except the quality of print output improved along with the reliability of the unit.
This was a small to medium leap forward.
In essence, the first-generation digital microfilm scanner and printers were looked on as no change in concept from earlier times.
With the introduction of the second generation and now the third-generation digital microfilm reader/viewer scanners and printers the dynamics of the read and print philosophy is or has been changing.
Well computing has become ubiquitous, cheaper, and smarter.
The current generation of digital microfilm reader/viewer scanners and printers are being installed in Universities, Libraries, Archives and Genealogy centres and other environments connected to a dedicated PC.
In several instances these PC’s do not have a local printer but send the printed image to a dedicated print server where the user goes after a scanning session and collects his or her prints.
Why do this, you may ask?
Economics! Less cost per installation.
With this format, only one charge card unit is required at a single print server, and none required at each digital microfilm reader/viewer scanner and printer for up to ten or so units can be managed under one print server.
OK you need a PC for each unit, but PCs are becoming commodity items at extremely attractive prices.
No dedicated video dump SCSI connected printer is required at each digital microfilm reader/viewer scanner and printer so one standard network printer does the job for the ten digital microfilm reader/viewer scanner and printer units.
The cost of an intelligent network printer is again like the PC a commodity item and unlike the dedicated video dump SCSI printer and in most instances one or two or more times less expensive.
Now comes the big crunch.
With a PC connected to a digital microfilm reader/viewer scanner and printer a user can now capture their images to CD, DVD or the ever-increasing capacity USB 2.0 Flash Drives with 1 Gig, 2 Gig and now with the latest and greatest 4 Gig of storage on a USB 2.0 Flash Drive.
Alternatively, a term for them is a USB necklace.
Why would a user want to print out to an A4 Din = A size US or A3 Din = B size US paper prints when they can scan ten, a hundred and possibly a thousand images to a USB necklace or other storage device ( if one had the time ).
Most of these software packages for scanning from microfilm also provide the ability to fax or email direct from the PC, which poses other questions for institutions to manage if they decide to connect the digital microfilm reader/viewer scanners and printers to the internet or even a local or wide area network environment.
Where or how is the library, university, archive or genealogy centre or other institution able to offset their outlay and receive a revenue stream from the PC connected digital microfilm reader/viewer scanner and printer installation? In the past, these institutions provided access to their microfilm holdings irrespective of format by supplying lower cost readers for that purpose at no charge and only charging for the prints produced from the reader printer.
Where to now if the institution installs digital microfilm reader/viewer scanners and printers with a PC controller (or in some cases, the digital microfilm reader/viewer scanner and printer cannot operate without a PC) and then create a revenue stream when none or only a few hard copy prints are being produced?
The concept will need to change, with either a charge for time the end user sits at the device or a charge for the file size of image data downloaded to the client’s storage device of choice, emailed, or faxed.
I am reliably advised that this option is in place at a site somewhere in Australia for use with their digital photocopiers ( document and book scanner heads only, no printer engine ).
The end user photocopies the item, but no paper print is produced.
The photocopied image file is sent directly to a print server where on completion of the task the end user swipes his or her charge cards and then either emails or prints out the file to paper.
The charge card system either charges for the prints produced or charges for the image file size (per KB, MB or GB or some other preset criteria) created by the digital photocopying process on the digital scanner units.
The system will not let that email pass from this print server until the end user swipe card has paid for the file sizes in question.
If the system can do this for emails, it should be an easy matter to handle image files that are faxed, downloaded to a USB 2.0 Flash Drive, CD, DVD, or some other storage media.
There is no doubt that we can do the same or similar thing for our digital microfilm reader/viewer scanners and printers.
The future is here and now.
Let us take advantage of this technological progress and use it to improve efficiency and reduce our overheads to our advantage.
If you have any thoughts on the issues raised above, please contact me on the matter and we will discuss the issues.
Happy Microfilm Scanning!
Laurie Varendorff ARMA
Laurie Varendorff, ARMA, a former RMAA Western Australia Branch president & national director, has been involved in records management and the micrographic industry for 37 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. Phone: +618 9286 3705; mobile: +61 417 094 147; email @ Laurie Varendorff
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