A brief history of scanning

Scanning documents has become a way of life for many businesses right around the world. The increase in the reliance on computers and other forms of technology mean that paper documents no longer have a significant place in offices place like they once did. As the move towards a ‘paperless office’ comes ever-closer, scanning documents is one of the most efficient ways of taking offices into the 21st century. But where did the idea of scanning come from, and how did it become such an integral part of daily life?

Considered by many as successors of early telephotography and fax input devices, scanners have come a long way in recent years. Once providing low-quality, granny images, they are now extremely reliable, producing top-quality copies.

The pantelegraph

It may come as a surprise, but the first scanner is thought to have been used in the 1860s. Able to transmit handwriting, signatures or drawings within an area of up to 150 x 100mm, the pantelegraph is widely regarded as the starting point of the modern day scanner. An early form of facsimile machine, it transmitted over normal telegraph lines was developed by Giovanni Caselli. The first device of its kind to enter practical service, it used electromagnets to drive and synchronise the movement of pendulums in order to scan and reproduce images.

The Bélinographe

In 1913, the Bélinographe scanned images using a photocell. Again, transmitting over ordinary telephone lines, it was created by Édouard Belin, and formed the basis for the AT&T Wirephoto service. The Bélinographe was used by news agencies from the 1920s through to the mid-1990s, and consisted of a rotating drum with a single photodetector at an initial standard speed of 60 or 120 rpm – the later models ran up to 240 rpm. Sending linear analogue AM signal through standard telephone voice lines to receptors, they synchronously print the proportional intensity on special paper.

Flatbed scanners

Flatbed scanners are the ones most commonly used by individuals in the home and office. Optically scanning images, text, handwritten documents, or an object and converting it to a digital image they became widely available during the early 1990s. Occasionally called a reflective scanner, they work by shining white light onto the object and reading the intensity and colour of light that is reflected from it. Designed for scanning prints or other flat, opaque materials they have an adjustable top that means they can easily can larger books, magazines etc. Once producing images of average quality, many flatbed scanners now produce copies of up to 5400 pixels per inch.

Thanks to the developments in technology, scanning has helped many businesses provide a better service to their customers. No longer relying on thousands of pieces of paper, document scanning is one of the best ways to streamline services.

As a national provider of document scanning, conversion, capture and document management solutions for large organisations, at Pearl Scan we constantly evolve in order to meet the needs of our customers. With over a decade of experience, we work with customers to help them become more efficient day-to-day. Using state of the art technology to scan and capture important documents, invoices, HR and legal files and highly sensitive information, we have worked with some of the largest organisations in the country, as well as helped hundreds of small and medium sized companies realise their potential.