Is Microfiche Still Used Today?
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