The history of optical character recognition dates back to 1809 when the first patents for reading devieces to aid the blind were granted. By 1912, Emmanuel Goldberg invented the first system to read printed characters and convert them to electrical code representations of the characters. His machine could translate typed characters into standard telegraph code. As well, the machine could read typed messages and convert them to paper tape, which would be used to transmit the message by the telegraphy. Two years later, the first handheld OCR scanner would be invented by Fournier D’Albe. It would emitt a meaniful audio output when moved across a printed page. Each tone produced had its individual unique character. Thus, the blind would be able to read by concentrating to the tones.
Through out the years, many others machines would be realized, howver, modern OCR systems originated on Friday, April 27, 1951 in a home outside Washington, D,C. On that date, a 27 year old researcher working at the Deparment of Defence, created a machine capable of reading typewritten text, Morse code and musical notes. The inventor, David Shepard claimed that his machine, called GISMO, could even read back outloud letter by letter, and scanned documents. Shepard founded Intelligent Machines Reasearch Corporation(IMR) and recived a patent by 1953.
Around the same time, one Jacob Rabinow, founder of Rabinow Engineering, produced an OCR prototype in 1952, that could identify characters at the rate of one character per minute. His company would be known for its accomplishments in OCR technologies. Up until 1960, many OCR machines would be custom built and very expensive. The OCR community would also have a problem as there was no standard font for the readers. This lasted until the March of that year when the American National Standards Institute(ANSI) took on the job to find a standard font. By 1966, OCR-A was pronounced the first standard font. By the mid-60’s , reader’s that could read different styles and sizes were developed. Starting from 1969, font training was introduced to allow for reader’s to learn unknown fonts. One year later, the Input 80 page reader was introduced by Recognition Equipment that could read 2200 large pages of text per hour, equivslent to 500 houra of manual key entry. In 1973, Sear aquired a hand held OCR wand to read merchandise tags at their electronic cash registers. However, at this point in time, we haven’t even reached the real beginning to modern OCR page readers. It would be in 1974 when the Kurzwell Computer Products developed a reader to scan pages of text and speak the words aloud, it was called the Reading Machine. This was for the blind. By 1978 this would evolve into the first intelligent character recognition system, capable of reading typeset text and was the first with sophisticated intelligence built into the reader. In 1982, Dest Corporation developed the WorkLess Station which could read up to 250 pages per hour at the price of aroun $15,000. !985 brought on new trends as the Cobra 500 was the first OCR made to work alongside a personal PC, for $2000. From the mid-80’s to today, OCR development has come hand in hand with microcomputer systems. OCR are made to us the intelligence of the computer rather than stand alone. OCR of todays includes an optical scanner, interface board that plugs into an existing microcomputer and software to do the actual translations.
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