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Cuddly Microfiche Reader


Government report from 1968 titled, "Towards a Uniform Federal Report Numbering System and a Cuddly Microfiche Reader -- Two Modest Proposals"

You can find this report here.

The writer of this report envisioned a portable reader device to read microfiche on. The device could be used on airplanes, in the office, in bed, etc... (see drawing on page 13 of report) The drawing of the microfiche reader is suprising in how similar it is to some of the designs of electronic book readers.

Pages 7-13 of the report are the ones that discuss the cuddly microfiche reader. The author of the report was giving specifcations on battery life, controls, screen size, etc... that a portable microfiche reader would need. These specifications are very similar to the specs that people have been suggesting for electronic book

This report is a classic example of the adage, "there is nothing new
under the sun". The author of this report, written in 1969, was
basically dreaming up the idea of electronic book readers. Yet at
the time the technology of microfiche seemed more feasible than
electronics and circuits, at least to this author. Some of you may
see interesting parallels in how microfilm was the technology that
was first mentioned in another article that dreamed of a current
technology. Vannevar Bush's 1945 article, "As We May Think" that
brought forth the idea of a microfilm based machine called the


Back in the "good old days" (a deeply ironic phrase), I remember that some librarians and others were proclaiming that microfiche would replace print books, with everyone having portable fiche readers. After all, they were cheaper to produce and extremely convenient--you could carry a hundred or more in a pocket.

Don't have time to resurrect specific quotes, mostly from the 50s and 60s, but it did happen. The more things change...

I wasn't alive yet ;-)

While the proclamtions were the same, aren't the new versions of these things quite different?

Not really. In all cases, books are thought of as old-fashioned/bulky/expensive to produce/low tech, and the replacement is more modern/ less bulky/ cheaper to produce/ higher tech.

Oh, there is one big difference: "Popular microfiche" was a true nonstarter, where ebooks could, shold have some large ($billions) reasonable niches quite apart from the improbable replacement of mainstream books.