The ST Genie is advertised as a low cost ($1,075) device that is used to convert microfilm to computer images. It should appeal to genealogists, historians, local studies specialists, and archivists, as well as dedicated amateurs and professional researchers. Indeed, the price is lower than other microfilm scanners I have seen. I can envision a lot of genealogy societies, historical societies, museums, and others purchasing the ST Genie to digitize microfilms for use on the World Wide Web or for conversion to CD-ROM.
Most microfilm scanners are automated. The user inserts a reel of microfilm and pushes a button. An hour or two later, the process is complete: electric motors automatically advance the microfilm one image at a time, and the conversion to scanned images takes place with little or no human interaction. Several of the major genealogy and history web sites use such automated devices for their image conversion needs. Automation costs money: many of these automated scanners cost $10,000 to $100,000 or even more.
The ST Genie is non-automated: a human must sit at the device and manually advance the microfilm, frame by frame, by turning a crank on the film carrier (the microfilm reels). Each image is produced when the same human operator pushes a button, similar to a desktop scanner. The human then must wait for the scanning process to complete on each image and then examine the result on the attached computer's screen before moving on to the next image. While tedious, the constant human interaction should result in high-quality images as each image is examined before moving on to the next scan. If the image isn't very good, the human operator can always make adjustments and rescan.
The simplicity of the ST Genie's design appears to be the secret to the device's low price. Indeed, this device is within the financial reach of many genealogy societies as well as more than a few private individuals.
The ST Genie scans at 2,700 DPI (dots per inch), a much higher resolution than the typical desktop scanner used for scanning paper documents. Of course, one expects much higher resolution for anything designed to work with microfilm. The device's web site claims that it scans a full 18" x 24" page of the New York Times microfilm in a single pass with no "stitching" required.
NOTE: "Stitching" refers to a process of scanning large images by making multiple scans with each scan covering only a part of the large document. The resulting multiple images then have to be "stitched" together electronically, which is often a tedious and error-prone process.
The ST Genie requires an attached computer, which is not included in the purchase price. You should be able to use most any standard PC. The $1,075 purchase price does include all the required software, including ScanWrite® 4.0x, Adobe Photoshop Elements™, and Nero Express® for CD burning. Once scanned, microfilm images can be uploaded to Web sites, sent by e-mail, or stored on thumb drives (also known as flash drives or jump drives), hard drives, or CD or DVD disks. Of course, the images also can be printed on a local printer or inserted into word processing or desktop publishing documents.
NOTE: You will want to verify all applicable copyrights before republishing any images obtained from microfilm or any other source.
The ST Genie scans directly from microfilm, not from a projected image in the manner of some other microfilm-to-computer scanners. The ST Genie works with 16 millimeter or 35 millimeter microfilm as well as with 35 mm slides and 35 mm color photo negatives. It does not scan microfiche.
One great use would be to copy a bunch of microfilms to CD-ROM disks. Microfilms scratch easily and deteriorate with use. CD-ROM disks do not suffer nearly as much from constant handling and are much easier and cheaper to copy. By copying microfilms to CD-ROM disks while the images are still clear and unscratched, a lot of wear and tear can be avoided. A library with very popular microfilms may find that copying to CD-ROM images can be very cost-effective while simultaneously preserving the microfilms. Personal computers and printers used to view the images are also much cheaper these days than equivalent microfiche viewers and printers. If the copyrights allow, conversion to CD-ROM disks could be a big money saver by preserving the microfilms and displaying the images on (cheaper) PCs.
Another obvious use would be to publish on a society's web page, probably behind a sign-in page or in a “for pay” section. In this way the images could be visible only to society members or to those who pay for access. The society’s web audience might expand overnight just by placing valued material online. The New England Historic Genealogical Society is but one such non-profit society that has had great success at publishing documents online at http://www.NewEnglandAncestors.org. Others are involved in similar efforts. If your society wishes to increase its membership, to increase revenues, and to serve more people at low cost, publishing on the Web is a great idea.
Most of the hardware and software reviews that I publish in this newsletter come from my own "hands on" use. However, my checkbook has rebelled at the thought of paying more than one thousand dollars for a device that I would probably never use again after the review was written. Therefore, I haven't purchased the ST Genie just yet. Has any newsletter reader tried the ST Genie or a similar low-cost device? If so, could you let me know of any successes or failures you have had with it? I'd love to write a follow-on article based on your experiences.
For more information about the ST Genie, look at http://www.stgenie.com.
My thanks to Tom Doherty for letting me know about the ST Genie.