Author Topic: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?  (Read 486 times)

TimothyEllis

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Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« on: May 04, 2021, 02:09:56 PM »
Anyone have any recommendations for scanners and OCR programs specifically for scanning and converting to text very old typewriter pages? I'm talking 60-70 year old typewriter.

One of my relatives wrote a diary which I want to digitize to ensure it's never lost.

But so far, I've been unable to achieve a good enough OCR conversion to be useful. At the moment, typing it in from scratch is a better option. And I'd rather not.

Anyone done this recently? If so, how?

I'm quite happy to upgrade scanner and OCR, but no idea what is worth getting and what isn't.

I've already tried and rejected all the testable tablet apps, and my existing old scanner and free OCR. Not going to invest in a paid OCR without at least seeing a successful convert first.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

   

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Post-Crisis D

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2021, 04:14:57 PM »
I've used Readiris.  Does a decent job.

With old typewriter pages, it would probably help to set the scanner to darken while scanning.

I usually use a high-end scanner on a digital press, so that's not likely going to be an option for you.  My father has a real good desk scanner.  Can't remember the name of it offhand, but they don't make it anymore anyway.  They have a newer model available but it gets fairly bad reviews especially compared to the older version.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

Post-Crisis D

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2021, 04:17:17 PM »
As a matter of disclaimer, I should point out that I usually retype rather than use OCR.  Even the best OCR software will have errors and I generally find it faster to retype rather than run through OCR and then edit.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

JackT

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2021, 09:26:40 PM »
The same for me - it's usually quicker to re-type than to correct OCR.

Another option is to scan each page and convert them to PDF. That's what I did with my old type-written diaries. I then uploaded a (rather large) file to Lulu and got it printed out as a book. It was time consuming to do but a good end result.
 

LilyBLily

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2021, 01:52:44 AM »
As someone who can insert more errors into a retyping job than the OCR scanning creates, I'm on the side of better OCR, not typing. Is there a copy shop (or what used to be called one) that can handle the job for you? They would have better scanners than your home version and know when to adjust for the lightness.
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2021, 01:56:13 AM »
As someone who can insert more errors into a retyping job than the OCR scanning creates, I'm on the side of better OCR, not typing. Is there a copy shop (or what used to be called one) that can handle the job for you? They would have better scanners than your home version and know when to adjust for the lightness.

No idea.

And I'm not sure I'd trust to anyone.

I'm not apposed to getting a much better scanner.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

   

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2021, 02:43:01 AM »
Readiris has a demo version.

Most scanners these days seem to scan direct to PDF.

If the print on the typewritten pages are light, one option would be to take the pages to a self-serve copier and make copies yourself, putting them on the darkest setting so you get nice, dark copies.  Then scan the copies.

How old is your scanner?  For typewritten pages, even an old scanner with 300dpi resolution should do the job.


One of my relatives wrote a diary which I want to digitize to ensure it's never lost.

What are your expectations regarding "never lost"?

For digital preservation, scan to PDF.  You can use OCR/typing too if you want to preserve the text as text rather than a scanned image.  Keep both the scanned PDF and the OCR'd/typed text file.  That way, you preserve an electronic version of the original document as well as the text.

Keep the digital files on multiple forms of media.  At least two.  That means hard drive and maybe a CD/DVD.  M-DISC if possible too.  Keep backups.  An off-site backup is also recommended.  Also, a physical hard drive, rather than SSD, would be preferable.  Store CDs/DVDs in a dry, temperature-controlled, dark place.  Keep backup hard drives in a suitable location.  Put in a Faraday cage if possible.

For physical preservation, make copies on acid-free, archival-quality paper.  Use either a high-end copy machine or digital press or an inkjet printer.  Less expensive copy machines or home laser printers may be prone to sticking if the pages are exposed to pressure (stored under/between books) or heat.  Keep a copy in a waterproof, fire-proof safe.  Keep an off-site copy.  Distributing copies to other relatives may also be a good idea.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

LilyBLily

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2021, 02:53:37 AM »
I vote for distributing to relatives. It also helps to publish, although in my family someone privately published (i.e., self-published) a family history in the nineteenth century and no relative seems to have a copy anymore. Upload to publishing venues like Amazon KDP and don't hit publish yet and you'll have another copy.
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2021, 11:18:12 AM »
How old is your scanner?

It is getting old now. I just haven't needed to replace it until now.


Quote
What are your expectations regarding "never lost"?

I'm not sure how many copies of the original there actually are now. There were not many made in the first place, being essentially bound photocopies of a typewritten book. We have 2 copies, one of which is the original (I think).

The book in question is a wartime diary, and as such could be an important historical document. Hence me wanting to make sure it survives, and maybe is available as a wartime document for people who study such things.

Starting to think maybe just a scan of the original into pdf might be the only option. Was looking at one of the dedicated overhead book scanners last night, and this might be the way to go.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

   

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2021, 12:38:04 PM »
How many pages?
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2021, 12:41:09 PM »
How many pages?

180

But a bit smaller than A4.
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

   

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2021, 12:51:04 PM »
I'm guessing it's not a type of binding that can be easily disassembled and then put back together?
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2021, 01:32:55 PM »
I'm guessing it's not a type of binding that can be easily disassembled and then put back together?

One of them is, assuming the screws will come out.
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Al Stevens

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2021, 03:07:54 AM »
Here's an off-the-wall thought. Verbally read the manuscript to a voice-to-text app or program. My iPhone does a good job of transcribing incoming phone messages. Dragon probably does it better. They say it's more accurate than OCR.  I've been looking into that ever since a small stroke in 2019 slowed down my typing a lot.

Let us know what you decide.
     
 

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2021, 04:12:59 AM »
I'm guessing it's not a type of binding that can be easily disassembled and then put back together?

One of them is, assuming the screws will come out.

If it comes apart and you have/get a scanner with an autofeeder, you should be able to scan it in short order.

If you want to send me a test page or two scanned with your scanner, I can run it through my OCR program (Readiris) and see how it does.
Mulder: "If you're distracted by fear of those around you, it keeps you from seeing the actions of those above."
The X-Files: "Blood"
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2021, 12:30:00 PM »
I ordered a book scanner from Amazon. Should be here next week.

I asked if it worked with 50 year old typewriter pages, and someone replied they'd been using it for scanning much older documents.

Don't know if the OCR will work, but I figure the first step is getting the whole thing in digital. Even as a pdf of the original typewriter version is better than nothing.

Here's an off-the-wall thought. Verbally read the manuscript to a voice-to-text app or program. My iPhone does a good job of transcribing incoming phone messages. Dragon probably does it better. They say it's more accurate than OCR.  I've been looking into that ever since a small stroke in 2019 slowed down my typing a lot.

That's definitely something worth considering if the OCR on the new scanner doesn't work. I hadn't even considered that.

 :tup3b
Genres: Space Opera/Fantasy/Cyberpunk, with elements of LitRPG and GameLit, with a touch of the Supernatural. Also Spiritual and Games.

   

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LilyBLily

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2021, 01:18:54 PM »
I tried reading one of my mother's travel diaries via a microphone into the computer's free software. The computer did not recognize some of the words. I had to correct the Word doc at great length. No time or trouble savings at all. If you regularly dictate and have better software (Dragon?), I suppose you'll get better results.
 

Al Stevens

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2021, 01:34:22 PM »
I tried reading one of my mother's travel diaries via a microphone into the computer's free software. The computer did not recognize some of the words. I had to correct the Word doc at great length. No time or trouble savings at all. If you regularly dictate and have better software (Dragon?), I suppose you'll get better results.
I have yet to find free voice-to-text software that does a reasonable job. One I tried (i think it's free with Windows 10) worked only with one line of text. I think it's for speaking commands. I want to dictate whole chapters.
     
 

Al Stevens

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Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2021, 01:39:42 PM »
I have yet to find free voice-to-text software that does a reasonable job. One I tried (i think it's free with Windows 10) worked only with one line of text. I think it's for speaking commands. I want to dictate whole chapters.
Another one I tried wouldn't do common punctuation beyond period and comma. Dictating accurate punctuation takes getting used to, I'm told.
     
 

VanessaC

Re: Any recommendations for scanning old typewriter pages?
« Reply #19 on: May 06, 2021, 11:54:01 PM »
I had to do an exercise not that long ago collating a bunch of old files (pdf) into a single Word document. Yuck. Took ages. the OCR worked to a point, but lots of weird cut-offs and bizzarre symbols in the text.

I would try playing around with the contrast, light and dark on the scanner when you input the pages - if you can get a clear image, that will help with the OCR conversion.

Another option, depending on where you are and what your local economy is like, is to see if there are any virtual assistants in the area who might be willing to take this on for you - I had to do the files for work, but honestly if I could have paid someone to do it for me, I would have done so quite happily!

Best of luck.
     



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