To understand a microfiche reader, you must understand what microfiche is. Microfiche is a storage medium, similar to microfilm. It is a collection of single sheets of film, filled with tiny images of documents or reports that must be read using a special piece of equipment called a microfiche reader.
Microfiche was widely used by government, academic and many business institutions due to its low cost creation, ease of use and the small amount of space needed to store it. Today microfiche has widely been replaced by CD technology, but due to conversion costs, many businesses are not converting their existing microfiche.
A microfiche reader is basically a machine that has a glass covered plate, into which you place the microfiche sheet. A lamp and a magnifying lens project the image you focus on upon a screen much like a PC monitor.
The microfiche reader functions much like a magnifying glass. You move the sheet of images until the one you want is displayed on the screen. The magnified image is displayed in a readable format in scale with the original document.
Large amounts of data can be squeezed on a microfiche sheet. Sheets come in three main sizes: 105 x 148mm, 105 x 152mm, 180 x 240mm. Your microfiche reader must have a plate the correct size to read the different format sizes. They vary by viewing screen size and lenses (which control the magnification size). They can be motorized and they can allow the image to be rotated.
According to The Microfilm Shop's newsletter, "Converting data to micrographics costs 10 per cent of what it costs to convert data digitally." It can also be stored longer. Microfiche, if processed and stored properly, can be read for 50 to 100 years.
Microfiche needs microfiche readers in order to be used for data retrieval. Microfiche readers can be space consuming and must be properly maintained.