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The history of microfilm starts around the same time as the invention of photography. John Benjamin Dancer was one of the first to produce microphotographs in 1839, where he achieved a reduction ratio of 160:1. Throughout his life dancer perfected his microfilm results, and by 1853 he was successfully selling microphotographs as slides which could be viewed with a microscope.
Throughout the rest of the century the science of microfilm continued to develop, as more people began to see new applications for the practice. One of its first real uses came during the Franco-Prussian war, where they were used to send messages to and from the front lines using pigeon carriers who could only carry large documents using microfilm.
The first commercial use did not come until the 1920’s when George McCarthy, a New York City banker, was issued a patent in 1925 for his Checkograph machine which was designed to create permanent film copies of bank records. In 1928 Eastman Kodak bought McCarthy’s invention and began to market it under Kodak’s Recordak Division.
In the 1930’s the process was developed onto 35mm film, and saw its first real application for document storage when the University Microfilms Inc (UMI) was created by Eugene Power. He had previously been microfilming rare books, but now began making records of important dissertations.
During WW2 the process was mainly used for espionage, as they could be used by spies to move around or send documents without them being found. They were also used for regular military mail purposes, and also by governments who feared their records and archives could be destroyed through relentless bombing campaigns.
In the post war years the technology for microfilm continued to improve, with better film, viewers and readers being produced. The possibility of using microfilm as an information source as well as storage was explored. This lead to libraries developing their capabilities in this area, and by the 1970’s the practice had become much more affordable and was used for a huge variety of applications.
As the introduction of computers and the internet arrived in the 1990’s, this improved technology also increased output for microform applications. This meant they could now be produced directly from a computer, and then used for an unlimited amount of uses such as hospital records or catalogues.
As the reliability of Microforms will never change, they are used by all kinds of libraries and archives as the best way to keep a hard copy of every document, and ensure they are never lost. Although they cannot be moved or shared in the same way as a digital file, they are completely full proof and will stand easily stand the test of time.
With digital technologies growing and part of normal day-to-day business practice the expectation of immediate access to information has highlighted the short comings of microfilm. Organisations with information stored on microfilm are now looking to digitise that information to provide easy access, store more efficiently and meet business continuity and regularity requirements.
Sunrise Imaging provides a wealth of digitisation services with years of experience scanning microfilm, microfiche, roll film and all types of documents. To find out how we can assist you with your scanning project contact Sunrise Imaging today by email at [email protected], by telephone on 020 8255 2011 or via the Contact Form below.