Microfiche is Still Being Used, No Matter What People Say

Is Microfiche Still Used Today?
microfiche still used

EdTech Magazine published an article entitled “Microfiche Was the Dawn of Multimedia Research“. It describes how it is as easy as “hitting Ctrl F” for students to research today and that “[a] millennial college student today might not even know what a microfiche is”. Well, no argument about the millennials. But microfiche is not dead. As the article begrudgingly admits at the end: “..universities remained optimistic about microforms for the purpose of historical archiving, and BU [Boston University] still maintains their microform department today” and “[t]hough not an easy tool for mainstream research, microfiche can have niche uses — Tedium reports of expensive classic comic book archives — among researchers and history buffs.”

Of course, the article was written from the higher education perspective, and academia has a habit of not knowing that there is a world outside of campus. Professors and students like to extrapolate trends on campus to the real world. However, the real world has microfiche in many other niches. State, county, and city governments still use them. Microfiche contain payroll records, student records, building departments, land records, marriage certificates, medical files, court cases, criminal records, genealogy records, newspapers, books, parts manuals, military service records, and many other types of documents.

Heck, even the article stated that Boston University has impossible-to-find material still contained on microfiche: “Ph.D. students use them when they need an obscure journal or archived material”. So what a minute, higher education: do you mean to say that the internet doesn’t have all of the world’s knowledge? Yup, the rest of it is contained on microfiche, microfilm, slides, books, magazines, newspapers, ancient texts, and oral traditions which have no been converted to digital image. The technological hubris never ceases to amaze me.

Granted, many organizations need microfiche converted to PDF or TIFF to allow easy search and online distribution, and many of them still struggle with the old ways and use microfiche reader printers or microfiche viewers. Microfiche is still used in 2018, and for some organizations it is still a convenient way to storing files compared to paper files, as they lacked the ability to convert the paper files to digital images at the beginning. Some organizations have always done it this way, and they can’t or don’t want to change, especially if they have a microfiche backfile. If they were to go a digital route, there are costs involved. Some legal or government agencies still believe that because microfiche has a lifespan of over 100 years that they are more safe than CDs, DVDs, and even digital images. Some researchers are traditionalists who prefer microfiche like that of film photography over digital.

Either way, it may be shocking for some people, but for someone in the microfiche scanning industry, microfiche can be found in hundreds of industries, and although unlikely, it it possible that college students of today will come across them in their job at some point. CONTACT US

Digitizing Combo Microfiche

What is Combo Microfiche?

Combo microfiche is defined as a microfiche fiche jacket containing both 16mm and 35mm frames.”Combo microfiche” is also called “combo fiche”, “combo-fiche”, and sometimes the misnomer “dual format microfiche”. The “combo” word is obviously short for “combination”, indicating that the 16mm film strips and 35mm film strips were combined to create one microfiche card. Many describe it as “a microfiche that has 16mm and 35mm images”, which is an accurate observation.

combo fiche

Combo-fiche is unique but not rare.

 

Combo fiche is unique because most microfiche is either all 16mm or all 35mm. However by no means is combo fiche rare. They are used mostly by government building departments, sewer departments, or contain property records. Basically, the 35mm images are blueprints, maps, or engineering drawings, while the accompanied 16mm frames are usually the accompanied 8.5 x 11 or similarly sized descriptive documents. Both types belong to the same case file, address, property lot, or drawing number.

How Can They Be Named?

The indexing information is usually contained on the title bar of the microfiche. There are times when even more detailed indexing is required, so the individual images would need to be manually keyed via data entry. However, for the bulk of digital conversions naming the fiche by the information from the header is fine.

Combo fiche can be converted into tiff, pdf, or jpeg images. Most clients opt for multipdf,multitiff files, or single page tiffs. That preference is usually based on what system the client is using to import and view the images. If the client does not have a system, it is easy to open up a multi-page image and scroll through the pages on any computer operating system or pdf viewer.

How to Scan Combo Fiche?

Not all microfiche scanning companies can scan combo fiche. You need special equipment to digitize combo microfiche because of the unique nature of having a microfiche with two different reduction ratios. Combo fiche is a symbol of how different the microfilming industry is compared to the microfilm scanning industry is. You see, the people creating combo fiche thought it was very convenient to put the drawings with their respective documents instead of making a separate card for the 35mm drawings. However what they did not know (or care about) is that putting two different reduction ratios is a nightmare for future digital conversions.

For combo fiche, the 35mm frames are probably 12X to 16X while the 16mm frames could be 22X to 28X (although to be technical, the ranges could be even more varied, but this is the average based on our experience.) Well, when the times comes to actually scan combo fiche, the scanner could only be set up to digitize one reduction ratio per card. This means that the scanning manager has to make a choice to either choose an acceptable reduction ratio as a compromise (and risk not blowing the images up to their original size) or scan the combo fiche with two passes from two different set ups, which cost double the money. In other words, the price for combo fiche could be a 35mm minimum fee per card + 16mm like they were two separate cards.

The other reason why not all companies can convert combo fiche is that some of them are on large format jackets. A large format microfiche is too wide to be placed on the microfiche scanner’s glass platen. The only way to convert large format microfiche for the company to buy an additional adapter to replace the original platen so the large format combo fiche could be placed down and loaded.

We Can Scan Combo Microfiche For You

Anyway, those are two problems for other microfiche scanning companies, not this one. We are experts on combo fiche and can scan combo fiche for you with no problems- after all, as of January 2018 no one else on the internet has written anything as in-depth on this topic or even took a photo of a combo fiche like we have.

So if you have a scanning opportunity for combo microfiche, please feel free to contact us for a free quote. CONTACT US