Epson and Other Scanner Matters

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2024-05-12 18:00:20

My first contact with flatbed scanners was in 1996, when the computer project group at school got a shiny new HP Scanjet 4c, with a screamin' Pentium 133 with 32 megs of RAM to go along with it. This HP could already push a megabyte per second over the SCSI bus. Now the first two scanners in our family weren't quite as high-tech – first a Mustek ScanExpress 12000P, later a Plustek OpticPro UT24. Cheap, slow, plasticky things (the UT24 isn't remotely dustproof, real awfully cheap build). This only changed many years later when I was looking for an A3 sized scanner (much easier handling of schematics) and ended up with a used Epson Expression 1640XL – a huge, heavy, nearly bulletproof pro-grade monster. And so the story begins…

The turn of the century was a pretty wild time as far as flatbed scanners were concerned. They really broke into the consumer mainstream around this time, with people wanting to scan both documents and family photos (often negatives as well). CCD sensor resolution downright exploded, with semi-pro models going from 1200 dpi in 2000 to 4800 dpi in 2003, ultimately topping out at 6400 dpi in the mid-2000s when people realized that optics had become the limiting factor and weren't likely to improve much further. Dynamic range handling and ADC resolution also improved steadily. Consumer models tended to use the parallel port, later USB, and often were quite "dumb" and slow (far from the limits even of an ECP/EPP port or USB 1.1, which can transfer about 1 MB/s each). More upscale ones would use a SCSI interface and had more internal processing power and speed to offer; in the early 2000s, IEEE 1394 (Firewire) and USB 2.0 found use instead.

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