Perhaps the largest growing market in hardware is for hand scanners. Just a short while ago, there were only one or two brands which used the same hardware and were unimpressive unless you regularly scanned images less than four inches wide. They required a steady hand and even spawned small plastic guides to help you scan straight. And if you wanted to scan a full page, have fun stitching the images together in your paint program.
The early scanners were at the show in newer forms, each with better features than before, but still lacking in utility in my eyes. However, several companies were showing hand scanners that broke through the old limitations. My personal favorite was Mouse Systems PageBrush, which does work as advertised. You put a picture under a piece of plexiglass and scan it. It really is like wiping the fog off of a bathroom mirror or the condensation from a windshield. You can re-scan small parts if you make errors in the image manipulation, which is a wonderful way to provide Undo capabilities. Also, because the plexiglass panel is flexible and movable, you can scan uneven surfaces or vertical surfaces (like wallpaper). The software it came with was decent, although we were so amazed at the PageBrush itself that we didn’t look to closely at the software. It’s fast and only requires 2 megabytes of RAM and can save as TIFF files, which OCR programs can import and process. Oh, and the whole thing doubles as an optical mouse when you don’t want to scan. All for a list price of $699. What more could you want?
Color, for one. Asuka has a hand scanner which beats the PageBrush’s 64 shades of grey cold with the ability to scan 4096 colors. Supposedly the software will have some way of automatically stitching images when it ships, but they couldn’t show us then. Otherwise the Asuka scanner is nothing different from the other, older ones. Same method of use, same shortcomings, same price range.
Easy OCR, for two. Caere, the people who do OmniPage, were showing a new hand scanner called Typist, which does on-the-fly OCR into word processors. It also scans graphics, but that was downplayed. The Typist sends its output into the keyboard buffer, which is why you can use it with any word processor, although we didn’t actually see it working with Word, so don’t hold us to that "any." Caere uses the same type of mechanism as the standard hand scanner, but it increased the width to five inches, which is too small for my tastes, but which can get a letter-sized page in one pass if you have really wide margins. It can theoretically knit together two halves of a page, though, so with two passes, you could scan a regular letter-sized page. It’s better for magazine work because the columns are thin and the software knows to automatically cull out graphics and the halves of columns on either side of the one you are scanning. Pretty snazzy.
Adam C. Engst — TidBITS Editor
MacWEEK — 07-Aug-90, Vol. 4 #27, pg. 1