Although this concept may seem weird to us today, microfilm used to be a very compelling way of storing and distributing documents. By optically reducing them to a few percent of their original size, hundreds of pages can be stored on a single high-resolution film. A box of the above-mentioned film can store texts and images equivalent to several GB, and only a relatively simple projector can read them.
As [Joerg Hoppe] Explained in his article on automatic microfilm scannerIn the 1970s and 1980s, companies such as Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) widely used this technology to distribute manuals, schematics and even source code to their service departments. Fortunately, this means that hard copies of all this valuable information remain intact decades after DEC was released. Of course, the downside is that the microfilm viewer is not something you can buy at your local Big Box electronics store now. To make this information accessible to present and future generations, it needs to be digitized.
[Joerg] Please note that there are some commercial services that can do this for you, but the price is too high to be practical for amateurs. The same is true for turnkey microfilm scanners. This is why he specially developed this hardware and software system to digitize DEC files. The user enters the information written on the top of the microfilm into the software, and then places it on a machine based on an inexpensive 3D printer.
The device moves the Canon digital SLR camera and an appropriate magnifying glass on the film in two dimensions, uses the Z axis to fine-tune the focus, and then commands the camera to take an image of each page. The images are then cleaned up through various filters and compiled into PDFs that can be easily viewed on modern hardware. Digital documents can be further run through optical character recognition (OCR), so text can be easily searched and manipulated. In the video after the break, you can see that the whole process is quite complicated, but once you enter the workflow, [Joerg] Said his scanner can digitize 100 pages in about 10 minutes.
If you have a large number of microfilm documents to go through, such a machine is invaluable, but if you only have one or two pages, you want to take a look, [CuriousMarc] Using a digital microscope and salvaged light box to assemble a simple device should be able to work in a critical juncture.