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Digital Equipment Corporation - MicroFiche Underground

jackrubin

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I've spent a few hours touring the public libraries in the area and one thing for sure, these fiche are no substitute for printed manuals. There are even notes in the fiches warning that photos don't reproduce well and certain areas have been retyped to improve legibility. I can read most of them pretty easily on a standard optical reader though exposures vary from OK to almost too dark to see. Unfortunately the digital scanner still remains on the very edge of legibility. I was surprised to find that the vendor of digital scanner is local so I'll give them a call tomorrow and see if they have any suggestions. This really should be the way to go if it can be made to work.

Jack
 

Lou - N2MIY

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I have set up my fiche reader with an X-Y positioner to move the carriage. Then, with a digital camera pointed at the screen, it snaps an image. The X-Y positioner and camera shutter are computer-controlled and can capture an entire fiche in automated fashion. It beats the heck out of doing it by hand. However, I do not have the right lens for my projector to capture full pages of schematics. It's only suitable for manuals :(.

Jack, what were on those fiche (in general). Is there any 8 stuff or is it all 11 stuff?


Lou
 

jackrubin

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Unfortunately it's nearly all 11 stuff; there are a few 8/E,M,F,A references in the IPBs but no full manuals. There's also obviously a little overlap in the peripherals, eg. RK05/RK8, RL01, etc. TC11 but no TC01 or TC08. In fact, there are even two fiches for the TU55 - not sure any of those ever made to an 11 - but nothing that I've seen so far on the actual 12-bit processors, though I haven't checked much in the Modules section.

Are you actually photographing the reader screen or are you using the carrier to hold your camera? What magnification is your lens?

Jack
 

Lou - N2MIY

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Jack,

I am photographing the reader screen. I did have the screen out and was projecting on a wall and considered photographing the wall (or a movie screen). The reader screen seemed good enough.

The reader is a small one that Will K. gave me. It's an NMI model 75. It has a 20mm lens, which according to the selection chart stuck to the inside, achieves a 42X reduction. There were also 33 and 17mm lenses available, neither of which I have. I think I need the 33mm (24x reduction) to properly fit whole schematics in the field of view. Even then, the grain of the screen may not be fine enough, and I'd be back to projecting on the wall (and mirroring the image in software).

Lou
 

Lou - N2MIY

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Adrian,

Yeah, we've found that a page scanner with fantastic specs still doesn't cut it. I have ended up just photographing the screen of my microfiche viewer. If you haven't got one yet, keep your eyes open for one and snag it.

Lou
 

AK6DN

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Have you tried flipping the fiche over and scanning from the other side?
Are you sure the fiche is absolutely flat against the scanner glass?
What did you use behind the fiche to improve contrast? Just the white (usually) scanner lid, or something else?

I don't know if any of these will change the results, but they are some things I would try.
Don
 

RSX11M+

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Looks like you're suffering from JPG compression. Try another image format - BIN or TIF without compression and see what that looks like. Other suggestions are good too.

Actually, those are pretty good. A little enhancement with Photoshop could yield usable results.

Epson 4490 eh?
 
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vaxorcist

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RSX11M+, I sent you a PM twice and didn't get an answer (or your answer got lost). Did you receive any of them?
Would really like to get in contact and offer help!

Regards,

Ulli
 

ddyer

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I wonder if the actual resolution of the fiche is such that the reader could be bypassed. Either photograph the fiche
directly (on a light table, using a 20 megapixel camera) or scan it on a scanner that can handle transparencies.
 

RSX11M+

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The resolution of a fiche exceeds the means we're applying here. However, while not quite enough to render full quality, achieving actual 9600dpi would provide images good enough for our purposes. As you can see from 1ajs's 4800dpi example, even these could "nearly do".

ddyer - The 20MP camera method you suggest would not be sufficient for an entire fiche as it would be equivalent to only 4800dpi if it photographed one inch square. Fiches are ~6x4 inches.

The scanner employed by 1ajs made an image 11733 x 19292 [ equivalent to 226MP ] and he covered only 1/3 of the Fiche. To do the entire Fiche at the same res would need 35199 x 19292 [ approaching ~700MP], and need nearly 3GP to get to 9600dpi. Still - while there might be a slight focus issue, common with many flatbed scanners, his results are quite good - as I tried to say earlier. The choice of JPG format for the file probably degraded the image, as evidenced by the fact that it's only 5MB as a JPG, and indicates a large amount of compression loss.


Ulli, I did receive your PMs, an apologize for not responding promptly. I've been much less participatory in the forums, and this activity, for the last 6 months than I expected. I've been distracted by a health issue with a family member, which has consumed my available time. During that period, I've only posted here as a means to retain my sanity. [ and I'm losing ]

We did have a member volunteer that he had Source fiches of a version of VMS. [see previous post] I haven't had time to check with him to see if there's anything to be of assistance to you.

Unfortunately, I have no catalog of fiches in my possession and there is not yet a "collective" list either. Communicating here has been our means of addressing specific requests up to this point.

It has become clear to me that sharing images of entire fiches, such as the one posted by 1ajs, will be the best way we can progress on this effort. My activity [as much as I've had time for] has centered around mechanizing that capability, and researching software to perform the conversion to PDF. My hope is that then, interested members can share these huge images and using the software, lend their time to the conversion effort - "communally".

Another element is the construction of a web repository to contain Fiche catalogs of members, to act as a share point for unconverted Fiche images, as an exchange / archive for their PDFs, and to facilitate the management / review of same.

That's the whole project I have in mind, in a nutshell.

Good to see there's interest out there - makes me feel like we are accomplishing something doing this.
 
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AK6DN

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Why would you even want to image the whole 4x6 fiche in one file anyway? That file would be very hard to use.

A 20MP camera shot of ONE page image in the fiche might just be enough resolution.

Don
 

RSX11M+

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Why would you even want to image the whole 4x6 fiche in one file anyway? That file would be very hard to use.

A 20MP camera shot of ONE page image in the fiche might just be enough resolution.

Don
To build a Fiche Library Archive -

The idea is to find an easy common format that would enable those with fiches to share them with those who would go to the trouble to convert them to PDF for permanent archiving. I'd be hesitant to surrender my Fiches to anyone else, or a postal carrier, and anyone doing so takes a risk of potentially irreplaceable loss.

Of course, "Whole Fiche" images would be usable "as is" by those with the ability to see very large images [Macs do this easily - BTW] but that's not the intent.

For example - It takes only a minute to scan an entire fiche. I have several thousand of them. It's more than I could possibly convert myself in the remainder of my life. Heck, just to scan them is a couple years work at 40 hrs a week.

So, the scans could be shared and enable others to contribute their effort, moving the project forward faster than I ever could by myself. Scanning also avoids all the image distortions that occur when passing Fiches through a camera lens, eliminating a lot of tedious image post-processing. [Field flattening, trapezoidal distortion removal, etc.]

Lastly - It enables me to GET Fiches from others, and make a "complete" archive available to others, again for conversion. One example of this would be PDP-10 Fiche sets. I have none, and would add them to my inventory in a heartbeat, should anyone share them.



That's why.
 
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Lou - N2MIY

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If you guys are curious, I was using an old 2MP camera to photograph page images from fiche as projected on the viewing screen of my little fiche viewer. 2MP was just fine and made files of "reasonable" size. Here is a photo of my jerry-rigged mechanism for moving the carriage of the fiche reader in an automated fashion. http://www.vintage-computer.com/vcforum/album.php?albumid=2&attachmentid=11357

I made a bracket out of copper water tubing to go from the trolley on the positioner to the handle on the fiche reader carriage. A PC running a quickbasic program tells the stepper motor driver what to do (advancing rows and columns) and also actuates the shutter release on an older Olympus digital camera that used an RS232 interface. The camera is really old, and so one memory card can't hold an entire fiche, so the program also downloads the photos from the camera, writes them to hard disk, then clears the memory then continues to finish the fiche. Actually, a 128MB smartmedia card would do the trick and hold an entire fiche, but I am too cheap to buy one for $20 on ebay (keep hoping to find one at a hamfest.)

I also need to find a replacement screen for the fiche viewer as there is a piece of one corner missing. None of this cost me anything (except my time), so that's the best part.

I do realize this is kind of a Rube Goldberg approach, but it is fun.

Lou
 

RSX11M+

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When Lou sends me the output from his camera, a considerable amount of work has to be done to make them into readable / printable form. [PDF]

This is done in stages.

1) Lou uploads them to me via FTP
2) I then have to make certain that they're named in a fashon that will alphabetize them to the correct final "page" sequence.
3) Next, they're copied to a temporary "Working" Folder. [keeping his as original masters]
Image processing is done by Photoshop,
4) I evaluate a couple images to see how they'll be processed. Typically, we end up with something like this:


  • [*=1]Negative
    [*=1]Alter to 256 Greyscale
    [*=1]Sharpen Filter
    [*=1]Field Flatten Filter
    [*=1]Adjust Trapezoidal Distortion
    [*=1]Downconvert to a standard resolution
    [*=1]Save as compressed TIF
5) This procedure is saved to a Batch Processing Script and the same set of changes is applied automatically to the entire set of pages.
Now we're ready to Re-format them for conversion to PDF.
6) Another editor is used to create a Multi-page TIF file, and each image is manually added to the file. Documents over 100 pages take considerable time as the process of editing gets longer as the number of pages grows. This is a bit maddening and may take up to 2 hours.
7) After reviewing the Multipage TIF to make certain I haven't skipped or inserted pages out of order, we proceed to the final step...
8 ) The Multipage TIF image is copied to yet another system and a program is run which converts it from TIF to PDF format. This is an old command line program and requires me to hit ENTER several times for each page, as it displays warnings as each is processed. [I can't turn off the warnings or supply the pages so they won't happen]

Poof! - if everything goes right, we have a PDF document from that Fiche. [Heaven help us with Multi-Fiche Documents]


Lou's device eliminates the "Mind Numbing" first step, but still takes time too. At least he doesn't need to sit and run it by hand any more, he can "oversee" - presumably occupying his time with something else while it happens.


It is my ultimate hope that a specialized collection of software will aid in chopping up a "Whole Fiche Image" [WFI] into pages, and process them into a PDF with far less human interaction. But this is not yet accomplished.

Note also that PDFs produced in the manner I have described are "Image Only" and do not have OCR'd Text. Such a conversion really requires a human guided PDF editor, isolating diagrams on pages from their textural content. I have yet to find such an editor.


Scanning a "Whole Fiche Image" [WFI] produced "usable" output in one minute, eliminating the immediate need to do over a day's work per Fiche, even if we could sit there that long, to perform the conversion to PDF. The WFI on the other hand, can be shared "As Is" and be on it's way across the Web in minutes rather than waiting for anyone to get "A round TUIT".
 
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1944GPW

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Note also that PDFs produced in the manner I have described are "Image Only" and do not have OCR'd Text. Such a conversion really requires a human guided PDF editor, isolating diagrams on pages from their textural content. I have yet to find such an editor.

I wonder if it would be possible to get in touch with whoever scanned and OCR'd these issues of BYTE for some advice? (ftp://helpedia.com/pub/archive/temp/Byte/) They did a very VERY good job on both scanning and the OCR, some of the best I've seen. I've been able to do text searches on these PDFs and have been utterly amazed at how accurate the OCR is, even finding matches in really tiny font... kudos to them.

Steve
 

Old Computers

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Does anybody have anyting about Dectalk on microfiche? I am troubleshooting a malfunctioning DTC03 unit, and I cannot find the service manual anywhere on the internet.
 

RSX11M+

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For those who might be interested, there's a VAX Fiche set on eBay. Among other things it it appears to have Source Listings for VMS 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7 and 4.1.

It times out in 1day, 23hrs as of this post. (Feb 8, 08:03:31 PST)
 
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