“IF IT’S OUT THERE, it’s in here,” a phone company ad campaign proclaims, never realizing that they also were describing my computer when it has a scanner attached. Which is to say that if there’s a useful image out there, I now can get it in here, in my computer, with very little fuss.
It wasn’t always this easy. I used to do it using a fax machine, and then only because I also have two phone lines and a fax/modem, allowing me to send images into my computer as lousy-looking fax files. And I’ve seen refrigerator art that looks better.
But that cheesy process describes what scanning is all about. You run the image through what’s essentially a color photocopy system, and the copy is translated into computer-readable language, telling it exactly how to color the pixels on the screen and what to send to a printer--especially a color printer.
With the availability of relatively inexpensive color flatbed scanners, however, nothing stands between you and good-looking computer-based images. Except for the installation procedure, and that couldn’t be more straightforward.
The Hewlett-Packard IIcx scanner is a full-color, single-pass scanner with 400 dots-per-inch resolution that’s bumped up to 1600 dpi with software enhancements. It plugs into your already-installed SCSI card, in which case you can use included software to find your card and confirm its compatibility. Otherwise, install HP’s own proprietary card. There’s nothing SCSI about the computer I plugged into, so I used the interface card that came with the machine.
One of the attractions of the SCSI system is the ability to chain a series of devices on one interface card, and the HP scanner grudgingly allows you to do this. Two SCSI jacks on the back of the machine are used for the hookup: one is for a large, 50-pin plug, the other is a 25-pin SCSI jack that looks like a serial jack. Theoretically, you can plug another SCSI device into the 25-pin port, but
Although the DeskScan software that comes with the ScanJet scanner is installed to run as a stand-alone program, it’s also called by the TWAIN driver when you’re working in a TWAIN-compliant graphics program. Which means that you can save yourself a mouse click or two by first launching your picture-editing program, then choosing Acquire from the application’s File menu.
The DeskScan interface is very straightforward. It makes a good guess at the type of original you’re scanning but lets you choose from a long list of other options. Sharp Millions of Colors, for instance, is the high-end, 24-bit color, see every blemish the way it was meant to be seen resolution; options for color photo, color or black and white halftone, and color or black and white drawing take care of different-quality originals, and some of those options also can take advantage of the sharpening technology.
While a scanner is usually thought of as a way to get a picture into your computer, it has other nifty talents. Scan a page (or more) of text and you can send it through an optical character recognition (OCR) program. There’s even an OCR program included in the ScanJet package. And those programs are great at recognizing text that’s even been skewed or muddied a little, saving lots of re-typing when you’re burdened with paper-based information.
You also can use your scanner as a photocopy machine. Again, there’s software included to facilitate the process, featuring an interface like you’d find on a modern copier. Set the number of reproductions you want from a page, position the original, and monochrome copies spit out from your printer.
Scanners used to be the extremely costly province of professional layout and design studios. No longer. The prices have come down, the technology has improved, and the installation is so painless that we all should be uniquely picturing our desktops.
Step 1: Install the Interface Card.
Open your computer and find an empty slot. It’s an eight-bit card, so I used one of the short slots on my motherboard. The card itself requires no jumper setting or DIP switch flipping; in fact, it’s frighteningly free of needed adjustment. Push it firmly into the slot, secure it to the case with the screw that held the case cover, and reassemble your machine. The back of the card--the part you see when the computer is assembled--should be labeled “HP ScanJet Scanner.” If it’s not, write and affix a label near the jack.
Step 2: Set Up and Connect the Scanner.
Step 3: Install the Software.
Step 4: Test for Scanner Presence.
Step 5: Scan a Photograph, Step One: Preview
Step 6: Scan a Photograph, Step Two: Final
Everything You Need for This Project
Hewlett-Packard ScanJet IIcx
IBM-compatible computer running Windows 3.0 or higher
An available half-slot
Photograph to scan
Clear a flat, even surface for the scanner.
Don’t put the scanner in direct sunlight.
Don’t scan and distribute copyrighted material.
PO Box MS511L-SJ
Santa Clara, CA 95051-8059
– Computer Life, May 1995