Aperture card

An aperture card is a type of punched card with a cut-out window into which a chip of microfilm is mounted. Such a card is used for archiving or for making multiple inexpensive copies of a document for ease of distribution. The card is typically punched with machine-readable metadata associated with the microfilm image, and printed across the top of the card for visual identification. The microfilm chip is most commonly 35mm in height, and contains an optically reduced image, usually of some type of reference document, such as an engineering drawing, that is the focus of the archiving process. Aperture cards have several advantages and disadvantages when compared to digital systems. Machinery exists to automatically store, retrieve, sort, duplicate, create, and digitize cards with a high level of automation. While many aperture cards still play an important role in archiving, their role is gradually being replaced by digital systems.


Aperture cards are used for engineering drawings from all engineering disciplines. The U.S. Department of Defense once made extensive use of aperture cards, and some are still in use, but most data is now digital. [ [http://federalvoice.dscc.dla.mil/federalvoice/030924/tech.html Federal use of aperture cards] ]

Information about the drawing, for example the drawing number, could be both punched and printed on the remainder of the card. With the proper machinery, this allows for automated handling. In the absence of such machinery, the cards can still be read by a human with a lens and a light source.


Aperture cards have, for archival purposes, some advantages over digital systems. They have a 100 year lifetime, they are human readable, and there is no expense or risk in converting from one digital format to the next when computer systems become obsolete. [ cite paper | first = Ed | last = LoTurco | title = The Engineering Aperture Card: Still Active, Still Vital | publisher = EDM Consultants | date = January, 2004 | url = http://www.aiimne.org/library/LoTurcoWhitePaper1.pdf | accessmonthday = October 10 | accessyear = 2007]


Most of the disadvantages are related to the well established differences in analog and digital technology. Handling physical cards requires expensive machinery and processing optical film takes a considerable amount of time.


A set of cards could be rapidly sorted by drawing number or other punched data using a card sorter. Machines are now available that scan aperture cards and produce a digital version. [ For example, this aperture card scanner from [http://www.oceusa.com/main/product_detail.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=1408474395186237&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441761057 Oce'] ] Aperture card plotters are machines that use a laser to create the image on the film. [ For example, this aperture card plotter from [http://www.wwl.co.uk/apertureplotters.htm Wicks & Wilson] ]

External links

* [http://stinet.dtic.mil/oai/oai?verb=getRecord&metadataPrefix=html&identifier=AD0232960 1959 Defense Technical Information Center report] on the technology and its use for submitting engineering plans to the military.
* [http://www.wipo.int/export/sites/www/scit/en/standards/pdf/03-07-a.pdf Detailed description of a particular format] of Aperture cards from WIPO.


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