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This is the process of transforming digital data produced by the computer into human-readable form & recording it in reduced physical size into a photographic film.

This method of output provides photographed type of computer output stored as microscopic filmed images into the microform.


Microforms are photographically reduced documents on films (magnetic media).

There are 2 forms/ classes of the Microform: –

  • The Microfilm, which is a film reel of 16mm.
  • The Microfiche – a rectangular shaped sheet of film, measuring about 10 x 15 mm.

A typical microfiche can hold the equivalent of 300 pages of printed paper.

Both the Microfilm & Microfiche are small.   

Differences between Microfilms and Microfiche.

Microfilm is a photograph film.Can store about 3,000 pages of A4 sized paper.Displays real images in reduced form.Cheap.Has a long life span.Requires special devices for viewing.Microfiche is a normal paper.Can store about 98 pages of A4 sized paper.Displays sketches.Expensive.Has a short life span.Can be viewed by naked eyes.

Advantages of Microfilms over Microfiches.

  • Microfilms last longer than Microfiches.
  • Microfilms display real images, making it easy to read & understand.
  • Microfilms are cheaper compared to fiches.
  • Microfilms require special devices for viewing while Microfiches do not.

Illustration of the COM process.

  1. The computer displays the results onto the screen. 
  2. The contents are then photographed onto the microform (an online operation).

Alternatively, the computer can write the output into a storage medium, e.g. Magnetic tape. 

  • The data on the tape is then read by transcriber machine called the Microform recorder & displays them on a screen connected to the machine. 
  • The contents being displayed on the screen are then photographed by a high-speed camera using microfilm onto the microform.

Since the transcriber machine is not under direct influence of the computer, the operation is Off-line.

  • The film is then developed.
  • If necessary, duplicates are made using the Film duplicator.

In some systems, a separate device is needed for each of these stages.  In others, the tape drive is not needed, instead the computer sends the output directly to the Microfilm recorder.

Also, some recorders are capable of processing the film, so a separate film developer is not needed.

In order to view a film, a Microfilm viewing station is used.  This magnifies the images on the film so they can be easily read. 

The station usually has a Printer connected to it to produce hardcopy, if required.

Applications of COM.

Microfilm output is conveniently suited to applications/ areas where: –

  • There is bulky storage of information.
  • The volume of output is high, say, 100,000 pages per month.
  • The data must be stored for long periods and use or update is not frequently necessary; as in case of old copies of customer’s files in banks, or back copies of newspapers.  Such data is usually referred to as Archival data
  • In Postal services, where the cost of mailing a microfiche is considerably less than mailing the equivalent bulky report.

Examples of areas where the COM is used in:

  • Libraries for books, catalogues, references, etc.
    • Government authorities – to retain/ keep Town plans, maps, statistics, etc.
    • Banks, Insurance companies, etc to store personnel or customers records.
    • National Registration Board for security purposes.
    • Registration of Motor vehicles, i.e., for Logbook and details of the vehicle.
    • Immigration department – issuing of passports (originals and passports).
    • National Archives.
    • Thomas de la Rue – concerned with printing of money (both original & copies).

Advantages of using the COMPUTER OUTPUT ON MICROFORM.

  • Saves on stationery and space.
  • Capable of producing many copies.
  • A very fast form of output -usually faster than printing.

Using the COM, the equivalent of 30,000 – 40,000 lines of output can be produced per minute (which is 20 times faster than the fastest Impact Line printer).

  • Not bulky, hence conveniently transportable.
  • The microform contents are not easily read using naked eyes, hence guaranteeing the security of the reports.
  • It lasts longer as compared to paper medium output.
  • Compared to paper, the film costs are low.  However, the initial cost is high, because the necessary equipment is expensive.


  • They are expensive.
  • Cause eye-strain if an attempt is made to read microform contents.
  • Requires special equipment for viewing the contents of the microform & for producing full-sized copies.
  • The contents in a microform are not easy to update.
  • They are less convenient.

Exercise (a).

  1. (i). Name FOUR types of Monitor cards or Adapters.

(ii). What is meant by the term “Resolution” as applied to a graphics display?

(iii). Why would one wish to use a high resolution rather than a low-resolution display?

  • Computer output is normally made through Screen or Printer.  Compare Screen and Printer as output devices.
  • With reasons, briefly describe the most appropriate type of printer or output device for the output of:
  • Customer invoices on multiparty stationary.
  • Letters to customers.
  • Detailed engineering designs.
  • (a). Name some everyday appliances/ devices in which an Audio response unit would be useful.

(b). Identify 4 Limitations of the Speech Recognition devices found today.

  • Give THREE Factors used to classify Printers.  Describe the various types of Printers in each class.
  • (a). Name THREE different principles which are used for producing printed output.

(b). Clearlydifferentiate between Impact and Non-impact printers.

(c). Give two examples of the commonly used Non-impact printers.

  • Give one device, which can perform both input and output functions in a computer.
  • Write short notes on the following:
    • Dot-matrix printer.
    • Daisy wheel printer.
    • Golf-ball printer.
    • Drum printer.
    • Chain Printer.
    • Laser printer.
  • (a). A printer, which is connected to your computer prints garbage when required to print. 

What could be THREE probable reasons for not printing properly?

(b). Why is it not possible to print a Graphic on a Daisy Wheel printer?

  1. (a). What is a Plotter? 

(b). What advantages does a Plotter have over normal Printer machines?

  1. (a). Describe the process of producing Computer Output on Microform (COM).

(b). Give the advantages of Computer Output on Microform offer printed output.

  1. State TWO advantages and TWO disadvantages of using each of the following devices for output.
  2. VDU (monitor/ screen).
  3. COM.
  4. Voice Output.
  5. Printer.

Exercise (b).

  1. Explain briefly how the following devices work.
  2. Voice (Speech) synthesizer.
  3. Computer Output on Microfilm (COM).
  4. (a). Define a Printer.

(b). With the aid of a diagram, show how Printers are classified.

  • Compare and contrast:
  • Impact and Non-Impact printers.
  • Inkjet and Thermal or Electrostatic Printers.
  • (a). Why do you think a Desktop Laser printer is a popular choice of printer to use with a


  • High volume of output – a high-speed Laser printer will print 146 pages per minute.
  • Output quality is very high (400 – 1200 dpi) – it can produce both text & diagrams or pictures of high quality and therefore can be used to produce manuals and small publications.

(b). What printers are suitable for producing business letters?

(c). What factors should you consider when selecting or purchasing a Printer?

  • Describe in brief the difference between:
  • A Flatbed plotter and a Drum plotter.
  • Microfilm and Microfiche.

Exercise (c).

  1. (a). What are the essential differences among Character, Line and Page printers?

(b). Give a typical example of each.

  • Describe the factors to be considered while selecting a printer.
  • Write short notes on the following: –
    • VDU.
    • Graph Plotters.
    • Voice Output.
  • (a). What is a Computer Output on Microform (COM)?

(b). Explain the working of COM system.

(c). Give the advantages and disadvantages of COM.

  • Explain the Printer under the following headings: –
  • Character prints per given time.
  • Print provision, i.e. the way they provide the prints onto the stationery.
  • Print speed.

Give an account of the operational characteristics.

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