Eons ago, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and long before Micro Com Systems, Vancouver’s Document Scanning & Archive Records Management Service very own Craig Hollingum danced the night away in his stylish bell bottoms to the funky tunes of The Bee Gees and Lipps Inc., microform technology (such as Microfiche and Microfilm) ruled the world for securing & archiving paper documents to a compact form. In other words, historical document imaging.
The first microphotographs were filmed in 1839, the same year Mende captives revolted against their captors aboard the La Amistad and the first Opium War began in China. Like any newfangled invention, most overlooked microphotography and classified it as a trifling, childish novelty. Until a Canadian engineer hauled the idea out of obscurity and gave microform technology practical use, microphotography lay by the wayside for decades before it gained momentum due to its inexpensive nature.
The two forms of microphotography are Microfiche and Microfilm. But which is it? Team microfilm (Edward) or Team microfiche (Jacob)? That particular question is asked more often than you think. Micro Com Systems has specialized divisions that handle the manufacture, and digitization of both microfilm and microfiche. So what’s the difference?
Let’s start with microfiche. Remember back in the day, before the inventory of an entire library could be searched with a few strokes of a keyboard or swipes of a finger? Storage of microfiche closely resembles a card catalogue.
Microfiche commonly contains images filmed with a 24x reduction ratio on silver 16mm film. Individual sections of film are then slipped into a thin, clear plastic multi-channelled 105 x 148 mm microfiche (about the size of a cue card), and a title that indicates the contents is printed along the top that barely peeks out of its new home. One piece of microfiche can hold up to 5 rows of reduced engineering plans/drawings or traditional letter/legal office files. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s compact. Perfect.
So what’s microfilm? If microfiche is a slip of silver film, how does it differ from microfilm? Simple. Think movie projector. Most theatres nowadays are digital projection (in 3D), but before we possessed handheld devices that held the worlds knowledge and cat videos, they mounted huge reels of film to project the movie on the screen. Of course, using a film projector had risks, like melting the film.
In a sense, microfilm is the same concept, traditionally on smaller film (16mm or 35mm), without the perforated edges. Like microfiche, silver film is used in the manufacturing of microfilm, and images are filmed and reduced. The higher the reduction rate, the lower the quality. On average, each roll of 16mm microfilm holds 2400 – 4000 images and is stored on a reel, or occasionally a cassette – another archaic repository.