Tutorial: Using Microfiche

An item on every student’s bucket list is to look at the microform collection at Carleton’s Gould library before graduation. After working through this tutorial, you should be able to check this one off (if you so wish to do so).

To begin, find the microform collection located on third libe. Attached is a photo for reference.

Location of the microform on 3rd libe.

After searching through the cabinets and selecting your microform, head upstairs to the microform scanner (referred to as Crazy Frog) located near the ITS helpdesk.

Crazy Frog.

Turn on the computer next to Crazy Frog and sign in to the Windows operating system- the software used to interact with Crazy Frog is only downloaded on the Windows machine, so make sure to sign into the Windows operating system.

Sign onto Windows.

Once signed into the computer, turn on Crazy Frog. There is an on/off switch on the back of the machine. With Crazy Frog on, open PowerScan from the desktop of the computer- this is the software we will be using to view our microform. The software will search for the machine, connect with it, and then you are ready to go.

What the PowerScan software looks like on the desktop.

Load the machine with your microform, and then manually move the form around to find the exact place you wish to look at.

How to load and adjust the scanner to scan the area of the microform you wish to scan.

PowerScan has a many features that make it easier to interact with the microform. Among the most important are File Type, Zoom, Mirror, Brightness, Contrast, and Magnifier. I will explain how to use these in the example below, but if you are interested in learning more about the other features, check out PowerScan’s documentation.


For the purpose of demonstration, I’ll take you through the process of examining a set of microcards at Carleton that are located at QA51.B3. This set, titled The first six million prime numbers, is self-explanatory: printed on the 62 double-sided cards are the first six-million prime numbers. This set was published by C.L. Baker and F.J. Gruenberger in 1959, is one of just 45 editions ever created.

The first six million prime numbers microcard set.

After selecting of the 62 cards and loading it into Crazy Frog, the first thing to do is to adjust the film type: PowerScan is able to read microfilm, microfiche, and microcards- all of which are distinct enough that they require their own film type setting. Microcards are different in that the printed text is layered on top of a piece of paper rather than being transparent.

After changing the film type to microcard, the next step is turn on the mirror option. Because microcards are not transparent, the text needs to be mirrored- otherwise it would appear as backwards.

Next, we should adjust the contrast. With microcards, it makes most sense to have 0 contrast.

Now, we should adjust the zoom functionality and activate our magnifier.

Control panel in PowerScan.

Baker et al. transcribed the prime numbers in an interesting way- rather than transcribing the full numbers over and over, they transcribed the full number in the leftmost column, and then the numbers in the same row use the root of the leftmost word and update the last three digits.

Display of how prime numbers are transcribed.

So, if we want to read the six millionth prime number, we would transcribe the root for the very last row: 104394713, and the last three digit suffix: 289. Putting these together, we get 104395289!

Visual of the six millionth prime number. The root being 104394713 on the left-most column, and the last three digit being 289 (seen in the magnifier). Put together, the prime number is 104395289.

If you are interested in learning more about this set, reach out! They are SO cool.


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