Old computers never die — they just get shoved to the back of the cupboard, and gather dust. Old peripherals are much the same.
I thought it would be nice to put online a picture of my scanner. Not the one I use today, but the one I bought more than 10 years ago, when I started getting serious about scanning material to place online.
I bought it on 2nd October 2000, on the web. It cost £328.93 — about $500. It had a sheet feeder, which would take a wodge of photocopies. It was fast, being a SCSI unit — most cheap scanners used the parallel port. I used a PC Card on my old laptop to connect to it.
In those days there were no PDF’s online. What I used to do was travel up to Cambridge University Library, and photocopy whole books, at 7p a sheet. I’d come back with a couple of inches of paper, and I would then feed them into this thing. Or I’d take a book, borrowed by inter-library loan, away with me during the week. One evening I would go to a Staples, and stand there for an hour while the copier whirred. As I write this, I remember driving down past Gatwick airport to some such establishment, back in 2004. I remember doing the same in Harlow in 2006.
The OCR technology of the day was primitive. But the better quality scanner — I’d been using a $70 piece of rubbish before then — instantly reduced the number of corrections I had to make by hand. The latter was always the slow part of OCR. The sheet-feeder made it possible to run a book into the PC.
It’s a month short of 10 years ago that I bought it. It has served me very well. It’s the scanner that built the Tertullian Project, especially once I acquired Abbyy FineReader 5.0 and started getting good quality OCR results.
But I haven’t used it for a few years now. It started to develop problems with the sheet-feeder, which left a vertical mark down the scanned page images and so made OCR more difficult. The glass grew slightly scratched. I was starting to do less OCR anyway.
Then I bought a Plustek OpticBook 3600, which was better for doing books. But the death-knell was when I bought a Fuijtsu scanner with sheet feeder that took up a fraction of the space and was far faster. I can’t remember where the SCSI card is any more. All the Scanjet is doing is occupying space. For years now I’ve used it as the place on which I stack my laptop when it’s not in use, which is a bit silly.
I think it is time to throw it away. I’ll take it down the dump this afternoon. I live in a small house, after all. It is of no use to anyone, after all, unless they have a SCSI card. No-one does, these days — they were rare even back then.
But … it will be a wrench, somehow. It’s like leaving a bit of yourself behind, something that helped define my identity for some of the most productive years of my life.
Good-bye, old friend.