Migration — New Experience

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A frustrating morning reading microfilm borrowed from the Family History Library. The microfilm reader/printer was almost as old as the records I was looking at – dating back to the 18th century. First the thing didn’t want to thread properly. Then as I was in the middle of reading a page, the screen light went out. The volunteer shut the machine off and turned it back on. The light came back on but went off again a few minutes later. The woman sitting at the next machine said the solution was to brighten or darken the bulb only. I had seen the button, but since it was part of the print menu, I assumed it related to the printer function.

Got started again and found a few records, though I’m suspicious that some of the information may be filed under elusive spellings.

Moved on to the second reel and discovered it was black background with white type. Almost impossible to read and dreadful for my poor eyes. The type was so faint I couldn’t make out even the names in capital letters at the tops of the pages. The volunteer turned out the overhead lights in the room, and I moved the images as far to the left of the screen as possible. Still no good. The most tech savvy employee in the place, who was trying to get rid of an error message on the other machine, suggested I try printing. The pages came out blank or so faint they were illegible. When we switched from negative to positive mode, the pages came out black. She wasted about six sheets of paper and then gave up.

I was finally able to make out the information by brightening the image and then enlarging it – but not too far because then it became too fuzzy. Fives began looking like sixes or eights, etc. I resigned myself to copying the information I needed by hand and then the volunteer announced, “Well, I’ll be leaving at noon – we all need a lunch break.” I had just barely started and wanted to leave the reel on the machine so I could return at one o’clock, but it turns out that the woman who scheduled me neglected to say that my reservation was only good for the morning. One person had signed up for both machines at 1 p.m. Plus the other machine wasn’t working at all when I left. Can’t go back until next Wednesday.

And they have the nerve to charge for this stuff?

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