History of Scanners

History of Scanners

Scanners of modern day times are considered to be successors of the early day telephotograph and fax machines.

Several early models, constructed by various people, helped lay the foundation for the technology we are exposed to today. As early as 1843, Alexander Bain created a device made up of two pens connected to two pendulums. He joined these together with a wire and was able to reproduce writing on an electrically conductive surface.

Almost 20 years later, physicist Giovanni Caselli, built what he termed as the pantelegraph. It was an advancement of Bain’s model because it included synchronizing electromagnets to drive the movements of the pendulums. It could transmit handwriting, signatures or drawings, and was used by the French Post and Telegraph agency between Paris and Marsailles for 15 years.

Edouard Belin was a huge contributor to the advancement of technology into the 20th century. Future inventors used his “Belino” as the basic principle upon which all subsequent facsimile transmissions would be based. He invented the Belinograph, which is shown in the picture below. This machine involved placing an image on a cylinder and scanning it with a powerful light beam thatscanner had a photoelectric cell. This would then convert light, or the absence of light, into transmittable electrical impulses. According to the New York Times, on Friday August 5, 1921, the Belinograph was able to send a message from Annapolis, MD to La Malmaison, France. This marked the first transatlantic radio facsimile message sent in seven minutes. After further development, the “Belino” was used exclusively by European and American news agencies all the way up until the mid 1990’s. The machine comprised of a rotating drum with a single photodetector at a speed of 60 or 120 rpm and later on up to 240 rpm. The drums would send a linear analog AM signal through standard telephone voice lines to receptors, which synchronously printed on special paper. Other companies, such as Western Union, followed suit with the first halftone photograph, then AT&T with the wire photo service in 1924. The Associated Press began their wire service in 1935, carrying the trademark on the familiar term “AP Wirephoto” from 1963 to 2004.

Drum Scanners
In 1957, the first image scanner was used to scan a picture of Russell Kirsch’s three month old son, Walden. Kirsch led a team that developed an image scanner used with the computer, this was a called a drum scanner. “Drum” comes from the clear acrylic cylinder (the drum) on which the original is mounted on for scanning. The reflective and transmissive originals are mounted on the drum, it then rotates at a high speed while passing the image in front of precision optics that deliver image information to the photomultiplier tubes (PMT). Only a few companies continue to manufacture drum scanners because of the monetary investments in comparison to other types of scanners. They are still used in high end applications such as museum-quality archiving of photographs, and print production of high quality books and magazine advertisements.

Flatbed Scanners
A flatbed scanner is usually composed of a glass pane that has a bright xenon or fluorescent light underneath. Images to be scanned are placed face down on the glass with a cover lowered on top to shut out any light. The bright light moves across the panel reading the entire area. The image is then visible to the detector only because of the light it reflects. Charged-Coupled Device (CCD) flatbeds contains three moving rows of sensors with red, green, and blue filters. Contact Image Sensor (CIS) scans consist of a moving set of red, green, and blue LED’s for illumination.

The capabilities and technological advances of these machines have greatly evolved over the last 165 years. Sharpness, clarity, speed, and efficiency have all improved over time. We have the capability to save and scan anything including photos, film, artwork, and even objects. They have forever changed the way we view and share images, and have paved the way for CAT scans, barcoding, and satellite imaging. We can even scan such items with our phones! Let us not forget one more very important type of scanner…the document scanner!!

Document Scanners
Document scanners came into existence due to the perishable nature of film and paper. Sure flatbed and drum scanners are still used today; however, it is recommended that if you will be scanning documents, make sure to have high-capacity, dedicated document scanners. Document scanners usually have document feeders and a tray to catch the documents as they are fed through. Scans can be done at high speeds, sometimes up to 150 pages per minute. Scanners recognize text, and create and save files. Fortunately, documents can be scanned at fairly low resolution,which will not occupy too much storage space on computers. Here are a few different businesses and the types of documents that can be scanned for each one:

  • Finance: Invoices, Expenses, Reports etc.
  • Human Resources: Personnel Files, Reports.
  • Petrochemical: Oil & Gas Exploration Documents, Maps, Seismic Surveys.
  • Airlines: Flight Logs, Passenger Manifests, Crew Reports
  • Transport: Delivery Notes.
  • Medical Records: All types of Medical records, Dental records.
  • Insurance: Client files, Claims, Quotes.
  • Stockbrokers: Client files and Transaction Data.
  • Solicitors: All Client Documentation.
  • Food Manufacturing: Daily Logs, Certificate Data, Delivery Notes.
  • Property: Deeds, Building Plans, Sale Documentation.
  • Office Documents: All types of general office documents, files and folders.

The document scanner has become an integral part, not only of the operational and procedural side of businesses, but has been attributed to saving both big and small companies huge amounts of money.

Stay tuned! Next week we will answer the ever-pressing question: “What happens after a document is scanned?”