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What is Computer Output Microfilm (COM fiche)?

What is Computer Output Microfilm (COM)?

Computer Output Microfilm (COM) is a system that converts stored data directly to microfilm or microfiche. I know around ten people who used to sell Bell & Howell Computer Output Microfilm systems as far back as the 1960s to the 1980s. It almost seems to be a prerequisite for salespeople in the micrographics industry from that era.

com fiche

COM recorder

Computer Output Microfilm systems are still used today, mostly by organizations who need to store payroll, accounting, insurance, inventory, or employee data. Yet because most of these organizations have outputted the Computer Output Microfilm to microfiche, they have to manually search for a record and use a reader printer to save out a particular file.

computer output microfilm

Old diagram of COM creation (microfilm)


A more feasible option is to convert Computer Output Microfilm to digital image via Generation Imaging’s microfiche scanning services. Generation Imaging specializes in microfiche to PDF, TIFF, or JPEG conversions.

Using high quality/high production microfiche scanners, we convert the COM microfiche to digital. Generation Imaging provides this COM fiche scanning service to end users as well as other service bureau’s. Clients can choose from Adobe PDF format, Group 4 TIFF (tagged image file format), or greyscale JPEGs. PDFs and TIFFs can be wrapped in a multi-page file. Generation Imaging offers an optional OCR (optical character recognition) image processing and other indexing services (by folder or filename).

The end result of this entire process is a digital image which you could easily search the file containing records by name, account number, date, and/or social security number. Obviously this saves time and efficiency.

computer output media

COM Fiche

Definitions of COM

1. Computer Output Microfilm: microfilm containing data, which is created by a recorder from computer generated electrical signals.
2. Computer Output Microfilmer: a recorder which converts data from a computer into language and records it on microfilm.
3. Computer Output Microfilming: a method of converting data from a computer into language onto microfilm.

You can substitute “microfilm” with “microfiche“.

Do you have microfiche to convert to pdf or digital image?

If so, please contact us today for a free microfiche scanning quote. Let us digitize microfiche for you. Generation Imaging has wholesale scanning prices, and is run by a specialized experienced team. With over 30 years of experience, we have seen all types  of microfiche. We have top notch customer service and a quick turnaround. CONTACT US

3 Reasons to Convince Your Boss to Digitize Microfiche

Convert Microfiche to Images

If you work with microfiche and pull records as part of your job, you may have fantasized about a more efficient way of doing that. Perhaps you even use a microfiche reader printer or microfiche viewer to locate documents. Well, there is a way, and it is called microfiche scanning.

Converting analog media to digital image (i.e. microfiche conversion) has many benefits. Here are three obvious microfiche scanning benefits:

Immediate retrieval of your documents on your computer- I mean, seriously, you can have a little contest with your co-worker to see who can bring up a fiche document the fastest; you just use your mouse and she has to go digging through filing cabinets and use a microfiche viewer or reader. Microfiche scanning allows this quick retrieval.

No more losing microfiche- No longer will you be worried about your documents getting lost due to a misplaced fiche or small frame falling off. As someone who has working with microfiche for three decades I can attest to how one must pay close attention to where one leaves a microfiche card. With microfiche scanning, all of the images will be saved and you can make unlimited backups and copies, so you will never lose a card again.

Quick response to resolving issues- Imagine if you work at an insurance company or school and someone is requesting their records. In some cases your organization has been forced to give a 5-day turnaround time because someone has to find the fiche and use an old, faulty reader printer to print out on paper or create an image. With microfiche scanning all you would have to do is…use your mouse and keyboard to type the fiche ID or use your eyes to find a folder. Which method is more efficient?

reader printer

OLD School is not FAST


Convert Microfiche to Digital Images (PDFs, TIFFs, JPGs)

Did Your Reader Printer Break?

When should one convert microfiche to digital images, such as PDFs, TIFFs, or JPGs? How about right now! Just recently the Mt. Vernon Clerk and Recorder office has suffered extensive water damage, and their microfiche machine no longer works. Generation Imaging has received numerous inquires from many government entities, school systems, and insurance companies that were using reader printers or Canon scanners which broke down.

If they don’t convert microfiche before an accident or mechanical failure, they would be unable to service the public or digitize the data. The huge advantage of using a microfiche scanning service bureau is that a company like Generation Imaging can convert microfiche to digital images much more quick than a slow reader printer or Canon scanner.

convert microfiche to pdfGood Microfiche Scanners

G.I. uses NextScan high speed microfiche scanners to convert microfiche to PDF, TIFF, or JPG, at various DPI, bi-tonal (black and white) or grayscale. Images can be converted through OCR (proprietary software) or indexed by directory or at the filename level. In other words, G.I. can create an image retrieval format for you to match your existing organization or create an entire new way to organize your images.

The key to avoiding disasters and getting involved in the tricky business of disaster recovery is to be proactive. The first step is to convert microfiche to digital. You may be surprised just how affordable the cost of microfiche scanning is with Generation Imaging.

Go Digital

The benefits of digitizing fiche are numerous: increased productivity, easy file transfers via e-mail, internet, FTP, networks, and printing; and the ability to copy images quickly.

Governments, private organizations, and individuals (researchers, veterans, genealogists, hobbyists) that have fiche should convert microfiche to digital images as soon as possible. CONTACT US

Myths About Transferring Microfiche to Digital Image

Microfiche Myths

There are a few misconceptions about microfiche in general and microfiche conversion. Here are some good ones:

People don’t use microfiche anymore

Do people still use microfiche? Actually, yes, they do. Schools still use 16mm microfiche files which contain your dreaded permanent record. City or country land records and blueprints are stored on 35mm microfiche. Electronic payroll records are exported to COM microfiche. The U.S. government gives veterans their service records on microfiche. Automobile and vehicle manuals exist on microfiche and are used by mechanics and part order companies.There are many industries which still use microfiche.

Microfiche scanning is expensive

Converting microfiche to digital images is not expensive if Generation Imaging is performing your project. Pricing is based on volume and larger volume microfiche projects are very cheap per image.Even if you only have one card or a one batch, the cost to convert microfiche is much lower than you would expect if you send the work to a microfiche scanning company. Now, if you buy a microfiche reader printer or scanner, you need to invest thousands of dollars in the microfiche machine alone.

Microfiche is microfilm

roll film

Microfiche means “little card”. Microfiche are flat plastic sheets with small images. Microfilm are rolls of film, which look like small movie reels. Confusing microfilm and microfiche is common. The less frequent all-encompassing term is “microform”, which covers all micrographic media. To make matters even more confusing, something microfiche was actually microfilm- cut into strips and placed in microfiche jackets.

Microfiche is not produced anymore

Believe it or not, but a quick look at government bids reveals that microfiche generation still happens today. Many states have data retention laws which require microfiche as hard copies for legal reasons and for disaster plans. (For example, imagine if one day an EMP bomb destroys our digital computer systems or the cloud.)

Microfiche lasts forever

microfiche vinegar

Although microfiche was originally created to preserve history and civilization, depending on how they are created, they can deteriorate if not stored correctly. There are many industry standard preservation techniques. The basic assumption of microfiche preservation was that they had to be stored in a climate controlled room and kept away from the elements. Unfortunately, because so many people do not follow these strict standards, microfiche can fade, smell like vinegar, become brittle, or actually lose their images. CONTACT US

COM Microfiche Scanning

What is COM Microfiche Scanning?

One of the most popular types of microfiche is COM (computer output microfiche). In fact many veterans in the microfiche conversion industry have the picture of a COM microfiche in their mind when they use the word “microfiche”.

Back in the day, the micrographic industry was all about creating microfiche and microfilm. Salespeople would sell COM machines, which would out the computer data to the microfiche cards. Accessories included COM duplicator machines. COM microfiche scanning is the process of converting those cards to digital images.

Scanning COM fiche is necessary if you are working with account records contained on the fiche and you grow weary of using a microfiche reader printer or EyeCOM fiche viewer. With the images digitized and indexed, you could search for specific accounts easier.

How Many Images are on a COM microfiche?

Generally there are 208 images (16 columns x 13 rows) or 270 images (18 columns x 15 rows) on COM fiche, with some variance in-between. For example some columns may not be filled with images and some people do not count the index frames. There is a special type of COM fiche called ultrafiche, which could have hundreds more of images!

microfiche scanning

The Microfiche Scanner

Most microfiche scanners must be set up to create a grid to line-up over the microfiche card. Other scanners can create image ribbons which can be broken down into individual images. Still other scanners could take a snapshot of the entire microfiche card, however you need special software to view that type.

For most microfiche scanners, the digital format received would be single page images or multi-page images. These types are usually PDF, PDF/A, JPEG. JPEG 2000, bi-tonal Group IV TIF, uncompressed greyscale TIF, and LZW TIFF.

There are many microfiche scanners sold online. These can be bought second hand from a microfiche equipment dealer, directly from a manufacturer, or from a reseller who makes a commission from the manufacturer. In addition to buying the microfiche scanner, you may have to get a license or maintenance plan. You must know how to operate the microfiche machine, and be able to train others.

Or, you could outsource your microfiche to a microfiche scanning company who will give you a price per image (or price per card). If you are on the fence about if you should purchase a microfiche scanner or have a company scan the microfiche for you, feel free to contact us for a free estimate and guidance to help you come to a decision.