Choosing a Scanner
A museum that needs a scanner generally needs
one that is:
- Easy to set up, with a minimum of cables and cards to install. Many
scanners can be easily plugged into an existing connector in the back of your computer.
- Easy to use, both for scanning and doing simple image manipulation. The
software used to control the scanner is crucial in making it easy to use.
Because many people may have to work with the scanner, many people will have
to learn to use it, so simpler software will result in less wasted time and
frustration among museum staff.
- Inexpensive. Some flatbed scanners cost less than $100 and still provide
- High-quality scans. Almost any modern scanner (and most of the old ones)
can provide scans good enough for your web site and any print materials. The
only problems may be if you're using a small original to create a glossy brochure.
- Reliable, in the sense that it will continue to function for years into
the future. Flatbed scanners rarely break or jam, but for that extra security
go with a name brand that has been in the scanner business for many years,
such Hewlett-Packard, Microtek, and Umax.
Almost all personal computer scanners are flatbed type,
looking rather like a small copy machine. Flatbed scanners are the best in
terms of flexibility and ease of use, and also the least expensive.
Some scanners require you to insert an interface card
into your computer. If you have the technical savvy to do this, or have a
staff member who can, then it is a reasonable option. However, it's almost
always easier to just plug a new scanner into a connection already on your
computer. There are three main types of connections into which you can plug a
- USB Connector. This is a new but reliable standard for computer
attachments. Many computers less than 2 years old have one. If your computer
has one, you should seriously consider a USB scanner because it's a faster
connection than the other options.
- Parallel port. If you have an IBM-style PC, This is your computer's
printer connector. Scanners that plug into this connector almost always have
another connector for the printer, so you plug the scanner into the computer,
and the printer cable into the extra connector on the scanner. Macontish
computers do not have these.
- SCSI connector. Most Macintosh computers have one of these, but very few
IBM-compatible PC's do. If you have a Macintosh computer, this is a good
option because this has been the Macintosh standard for many years, but if
your Mac has a USB port that's good too.
do I tell if I have a USB port? Of the various plugs, connectors, and holes in
the back of your computer, only one or two will be USB ports. They are
rectangular, and accept a rectangular plug. They are similar to your modem or
network plug, except that they don't have the cutout in one side for the
For more information, see Ziff-Davis's
review of scanners (Ziff-Davis is a respected
provider of objective computer and technology information, publishing such
magazines as FamilyPC, MacWorld, and PC Magazine). Of the 10 scanners
reviewed here, I think the Umax Astra 1220 is probably the best for
museums because of the value, software, and the fact that it works with both PC's and Macs. The letter after the 1220 indicates the connector type: S=SCSI, P=Parallel, U=USB, so be sure you get the right one for your computer.