NMA Conference attendees participated in a number of sessions on COM (computer output microform). The speakers generally forecast continued viability for the medium throughout the eighties.
Other forms of storage such as optical disk, magnetic memory in chip or board form and magnetic disk can provide faster access than COM, but they are also far more expensive per megabyte of storage.
Probably the most critical area to examine when comparing COM to other technologies is that of data base size. CON is most appropriate for small data bases say the experts. A large number of CON applications fall into the range of four to six megabytes of data or less, and 90 percent of all COM data bases contain less than 200 megabytes (approximately 100 microfiches).
Handling ease is a factor which mitigates against the creation of very large fiche files. Fiche Tiles become difficult to use when there are several hundred fiches. Microfilm is not the answer because hardware costs rise dramatically when a single file requires more than one microfilm reader.
COM is a good choice when cost is an important consideration. The cost per megabyte of COM has been estimated to be 65 cents as compared with $20 for magnetic tape storage. It would be prohibitively expensive to put a 30 or 40 megabyte database on an optical disk, or some alternative emerging electronic medium, due to the cost of creation, duplication and storage. By 1983 the cost per megabyte for optical disk storage is expected to be $80 but this picture may change dramatically by the mid 1980s.