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What are Microfiche?

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If you're wanting the quick answer, we'll explain it a little below but there is a lot more to microfiche than meets the eye. Microfiche have been around for almost one hundred years, since Paul Otlet and Robert Goldschmidt proposed the livre microphotographique as a way to alleviate the cost and space limitations imposed by the codex format in 1906. A lot of people believe that microfiche were invented a lot more recently than this, say in the 1950s or 1960s. However they were only commercially used in a larger capacity in around the 1920s. Shortly thereafter the rights were bought by a familiar name, the Eastman Kodak Company. So you could say that they have a lot of history.

So in short...what are microfiche?

what-are-microfiche-300x177Microfiche come in a number of sizes and type ranging from 16mm slides up to 35mm slides and a range of different sleeve / container sizes. For an in depth look at all the different microfiche / microfilm types on the market, take a look here.what are microficheTo explain about microfiche in short, microfiche are shrunken pages of information which have been put onto a film. When companies had a lot of documents or a lot of files but didn't really have the space or wanted to save a lot more space in and around their offices. In effect microfiche were the external hard drives of those days, a way to save larger files in a small place in order to save space. At the time it would've been truly revolutionary and as it turns out we were thinking about saving space long before the advent of the 21st century, although not as obsessively as we do today.

Microfiche and their document types

A4 size documents were usually stored on 16mm microfiche negatives and in some cases A3, but anything about that such as architects drawings, plans or blueprints would go onto 35mm microfiche. Although 16mm microfiche were amongst the most popular, the 35mm were always the most useful due to the colossal size of architects drawings etc. and the sheer amount of space that would be saved.

Technically microfiche was the digitisation of their day and were very sought after for a long time. With the advent of smaller and better solutions in the last 30 years and the rise of digitally produced documents, microfiche were simply outclassed. Today when the contents are required the user must either use an increasingly rare microfiche reader which can be bought expensively due to their now niche appeal or they can still be found in some large libraries. However, due to the cost of microfiche readers and the sheer quantity of microfiche that need to be looked through sometimes, they are more often than not digitised and disposed of through companies that offer microfiche scanning as a service. We talk about how microfiche conversion is better than a microfiche reader here.

So what are the advantages of microfiche, even today?

Microfiche do still have one appeal that isn't offered by their successors such as the CD, DVD and external hard-drives; their life spans. It is reckoned that microfiche will be effective for upward of 500 years, whereas CDs and DVDs are supposedly only supposed to have a lifespan of around 10. So they do still have their uses, although they have become considerably more inconvenient over time.

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