Microfilm Rapid Selector [Transcription of Video]

Kahn: Around 1937, here at MIT in one of the labs, Bush was supervising a project to build a microfiche rapid selector. Unfortunately, there are no photographs or actual drawings of this machine. A schematic that was put together by Thomas Bagg at one of the National Research Institutes is the best thing we've got. You have a roll of 35MM film, and that film on each frame of the standard movie film, one frame was a standard picture of the page, and the rest of that film was a mask of dots. That film could be run fairly rapidly through a transport mechanism.

There are about one hundred and twenty frames on the roll and you could run that through the machine in about two minutes. There was a set of photo relays that was running light through the mask, and the strobe, which was developed by (Doc) Edgerton here at MIT, was being used to fire off a second recording camera when the mask actually matched the dot pattern on the film. So, then it could re-record actual dot patterns on a second roll of film. You could develop a mask of the actual information you wanted to retrieve off the film, run through the film and re-record only those frames that contained the information you wanted, then you had a second microfilm that contained those select pages.

This was the technology being developed in Bush's lab, and this, as far as we can tell, was the technology behind the article that he was writing at the time. The first manuscript that we found at the MIT archive, when Jim Nyce and I wereworking on this, was called "Mechanisization in the Record," and it dates from around 1938, which was before Bush left MIT and went to Washington.

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