CAR (computer assisted retrieval) of information stored on microform is the fastest growing segment of the micrographics market according to the speakers at the annual meeting of the National Micrographics Association.
The micrographics medium is still the most cost-effective method of filing or storing information and there is little reason to believe that this will change during the 1980s. The use of a computer to access and retrieve information stored on microform has combined the low cost of microform storage with the rapid retrieval that is deemed essential in today's offices and libraries.
CAR systems exist for both roll microfilm and for microfiche. A typical 16mm roll film CAR system might consist of:
- An intelligent microfilm reader-printer.
- A mainframe or minicomputer with one or more CRTs linked to the reader-printer.
- Cartridges of film containing document images.
In a typical CAR system, relevant summary data is extracted from each document after it has been filmed. A coded address for each document is added to this data base at the time of data entry. Tn a search for information, the user has two choices:
- Access the computer's primary data base via a CRT for summary information-satisfying a majority of the inquiries;
- Access the secondary microfilm data base via the intelligent reader-printer for the entire record satisfying the remainder of the inquiries.
Each document in a CAR system is assigned a physical storage location, or address, by a reference number related to its position on a roll of film; or in the case of microfiche, a grid location. Since documents are normally added to the system in batches and randomly stored, the input sequence does not necessarily resemble the sequence in which they are used. Additionally, the search parameters available to the user are not necessarily related to the physical document storage location.
The power of a CAR system is in the merging of computer and micrographics technologies, providing the ability to identify a document from its descriptors, locate it in a secondary data base of thousands of documents, and display it in seconds.
With the appropriate search software, CAR systems can also be designed to handle complex inquiries that ask the system to display a document or documents from multiple search parameters.
Almost all of the major microform equipment companies offer CAR systems. The best sources for articles and ads are Information and Records Management and Information Manager.