Microfiche: A Historical Overview of a Revolutionary Document Storage Medium


The History of Microfiche: From Inception to Modern Applications

Microfiche, a flat film format used for document storage, has a rich history that parallels the evolution of information management and archival practices. Emerging in the mid-20th century, microfiche became a popular medium for storing large volumes of information in a compact, durable format. This article traces the development of microfiche from its inception to its modern-day applications, highlighting its significance in the preservation of historical records and its enduring legacy in the digital age.

Early Development and Adoption

The concept of microfiche can be traced back to the 19th century when the idea of reducing documents to miniature photographic formats was first explored. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s that microfiche began to take shape as a practical tool for document storage. The introduction of microphotography by the French Army during World War I marked the beginning of serious experimentation with microformats for storing intelligence reports and military documents.

The term “microfiche” derives from the French word “fiche,” meaning “card” or “slip.” In the 1940s and 1950s, microfiche gained traction as libraries, government agencies, and businesses recognized its potential for archiving newspapers, books, patents, and technical manuals. The ability to store thousands of pages on a single sheet of film made microfiche an attractive solution for institutions dealing with space constraints and the need for long-term preservation.

Technological Advancements

The 1960s and 1970s saw significant advancements in microfiche technology. High-resolution cameras and improved film processing techniques enhanced the quality and readability of microfiche images. Standardized formats were developed, typically 4 x 6 inches, containing rows and columns of miniature images, each representing a single page of a document.

Microfiche readers, devices designed to magnify and project the miniature images onto a screen, became common fixtures in libraries and research institutions. These readers allowed users to view, print, and even annotate microfiche documents, making the medium highly versatile and user-friendly.

Widespread Use and Applications

By the 1980s, microfiche had become a ubiquitous tool in various sectors. Libraries used it extensively to archive periodicals and rare books, preserving content while freeing up physical space. Government agencies adopted microfiche for storing vital records, land deeds, and legislative documents, ensuring their protection against deterioration and loss. In the corporate world, companies utilized microfiche for storing financial records, technical drawings, and operational manuals, benefiting from the medium’s durability and ease of access.

Microfiche also played a crucial role in the dissemination of academic research. Universities and research institutions microfilmed theses, dissertations, and academic journals, making them accessible to scholars worldwide. This practice significantly contributed to the global exchange of knowledge and research findings.

Transition to Digital and Legacy

The advent of digital technologies in the late 20th century marked a shift in document storage and retrieval practices. Digital databases and online repositories began to replace microfiche, offering even greater storage capacities and more efficient search capabilities. However, the transition was gradual, and microfiche continued to be used alongside digital systems.

Today, the legacy of microfiche endures as many institutions embark on projects to digitize their microfiche collections. Modern microfiche scanners convert these analog records into digital formats, ensuring their preservation and accessibility for future generations. Despite the dominance of digital technology, the historical significance of microfiche remains, highlighting its role in the evolution of information management.

Final Word

Microfiche has played a pivotal role in the history of document preservation and archival practices. From its early development and widespread adoption to its enduring legacy in the digital age, microfiche has proven to be a reliable and valuable medium for storing and accessing vast amounts of information. As institutions continue to digitize their collections, the impact of microfiche on the preservation of historical records will be remembered as a significant milestone in the history of information management.

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Who still uses microfiche?

Microfiche, a type of microform that consists of a sheet of film with micro images of documents printed on it, was once a popular way to store and access large volumes of documents in a space-efficient manner. However, in recent years, the use of microfiche has declined significantly, as more and more organizations have turned to digital technologies for record-keeping and storage.

So, who still uses microfiche? One group that continues to rely on microfiche is libraries and archives. Many of these institutions have large collections of historical documents and other materials that were originally recorded on microfiche, and they continue to maintain and use these collections as a way to preserve the information they contain. In addition, some libraries and archives may still use microfiche as a way to store copies of more recent documents, particularly if they are looking to save space or if the documents are not in high demand.

Another group that may still use microfiche is government agencies. Some government agencies have large amounts of legacy documents that were recorded on microfiche, and they may continue to maintain and use these collections as a way to access historical records. In addition, some government agencies may still use microfiche for record-keeping purposes, particularly if they are looking to save space or if the documents are not frequently accessed.

Finally, a small number of businesses and organizations may still use microfiche as a way to store and access documents. However, these cases are becoming increasingly rare, as most businesses have adopted digital technologies for record-keeping and storage.

Overall, it is clear that the use of microfiche has declined significantly in recent years, as more and more organizations have turned to digital technologies for record-keeping and storage. While there are still some libraries, archives, government agencies, and businesses that rely on microfiche, they are increasingly in the minority, as the vast majority of organizations have embraced digital technologies for these purposes.

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Who is Damian Hospital

Damian Hospital is co-founder of Generation Imaging, a digital conversion company located in South Florida in the United States. Generation Imaging was founded in 2009.

Damian Hospital got into the micrographics business in 1998 in Sunrise, Florida, where he worked his way up from an entry level position to upper management by cross-training in all aspects of digital conversion project workflow.

Damian Hospital got his hands dirty with microfilm scanning, microfiche scanning, aperture card scanning, color slide scanning, document scanning, indexing images, image processing, image enhancement, Quality Control, Customer Service, hiring and training of new employees, technical writer for procedures, Human Resources, marketing, and bids, project lead for testing samples, and shipping. Damian Hospital was the first in the company to perform Search Optimization tasks and blogging and spearheading the digital marketing platform.

Damian Hospital is known to be an intense, hard worker, and a bit of a perfectionist. He delighted into having scanning production contents in the 2000s with his co-workers to see who could scan the most. He did not have patient for inter-company politics, selfish workers, or melodrama.

Damian Hospital has seen all the different types of microfilm and microfiche. There’s simply nothing he has not seen. Being in the trenches and dealing with so many projects and scanning equipment over the years, nothing surprises him anymore and he could troubleshoot with the best of them.

Damian Hospital brought all of these experiences to Generation Imaging in Davie and continues to be efficient and excel at delivering microform services at the lowest possible price. All work is performed in Florida, and is not subcontracted overseas. Generation Imaging has two offices in Hialeah and Coral Springs.

Damian Hospital


The Various Names for Microfiche

What is definition of “Microfiche”?

And why do some people call it different things?


Every industry has its own lingo. Sometimes even within the industry professionals use different terms.

Oxford Dictionary defines microfiche as “a flat piece of film containing microphotographs of the pages of a newspaper, catalog, or other document”.

Etymonline.com says the term came into use in 1950, from French.

“Micro-” of course is the prefix meaning small, and “fiche” the French word for “card, index card, slip, form”.

Those in the micrographics field are used to the word “microfiche” because that field has mastered the technique of photographing written or printed pages in reduced form to produce microfiche.

Microphotography has its roots from the 1800s as it was a form of art. It eventually became used in espionage and passing coded messages.

It should be simple to understand that microfiche is a flat sheet with shrunken images on them.

So why do some people call “microfiche” microfilm? And what’s up with microfiche jackets, COM fiche, step-and-repeat microfiche, duplicated fiche, Microx, and aperture cards?

Well, it doesn’t help that the Wikipedia editors decided to have roll film and microfiche in the same article entitled “microform”. Microform is indeed the generic, all-encompassing term for all types of microphotographic reproductions. However, if someone says that they have “a drawer full of microform”, there is no indication of what type of film or fiche is in the collection, or they actually mean a “mixed collection of various media”.

To add insult to injury, jacketed microfiche is actually made up of cut microfilm which is then inserted into channels (jackets). Therefore, jacketed fiche are indeed composed of cut microfilm. And, of course, “film” can be strips or spooled. So as you can see, it is easy to fall into a word trap here!

Microfiche can also be 16mm, 35mm, and have various colors (clear positive, black negative, purple or blue duplicates), shapes, and organization.

Sometimes it is easier to remember things by visualization. Let’s keep it simple:

Microfiche is a flat sheet with reduced documents on them, like this:


THIS is microfiche

Or this:

combo fiche

35mm and 16mm combo fiche


Or this:

computer output media

COM Fiche


Or other various types of flat sheets.

It does not look like a spool or reel of film. Nor is it opaque on cardboard. Nor is it a Kodak mounted slide.


Storing Microfiche vs Digitizing Microfiche

microfiche storage

A photo of an iron mountain.

If your company or organization has thousands of microfiche you have probably wondered if you ought to be paying monthly storage fees with a document storage company or just have the microfiche converted into digital image.

The largest document storage service in the world provides storage for microfilm and microfiche, audio and videotapes, film, X-rays, blueprints, vital records, and courier operations, the collection, handling, disposal of sensitive documents for corporate customers; and information destruction services, information governance and digital solutions, and fulfillment and technology escrow services.

However the storage and record retrieval fees add up over time and require a contract. A shortcut is to get your microfiche records converted into a TIFF or PDF. Generation Imaging can scan your microfiche and even index them by the title bars or document fields per image. After the microfiche is scanned, you can upload them to your server, computers, or cloud and do with them as you wish. Best of all, no more monthly maintenance, retrieve, or delivery fees. You will have all of your microfiche images in your hands for instant retrieval, all for a low project cost. CONTACT US