Increased Use Of Computer-Output-Microfilm By Federal Agencies Could Result In Savings
B-115369, Nov 26, 1974
GAO reviewed computer-output-microfilm (COM) use by federal agencies, focusing on: (1) whether COM could improve the efficiency and economy of computerized information systems; and (2) service centers as a means of providing COM services.
GAO noted that: (1) COM is a blending of the computer, microphotography, and electronics; (2) a COM system usually consists of a recorder/developer and a reader; (3) generally, the COM recorder/developer can be rented for less than $50,000 a year and readers may be purchased for between $70 and $4,000, depending on sophistication and capabilities; (4) organizations installing COM systems have obtained benefits, including: (a) lower costs; (b) faster information output; (c) more versatile output formats; and (d) easier handling and distribution of computer reports; (5) a Defense Supply Agency study indicated that producing computer-output data on microfilm costs about one-fourth as much as producing data on paper; (6) in addition, it is less expensive to store and reproduce COM reports than paper reports; (7) computer output on microfilm can be retrieved faster than data printed on paper; (8) computer printers are generally the slowest part of computer systems and frequently become a bottleneck, slowing system output; (9) microfilm recorders operate faster than printers and can produce as much output in a given period as 30 printers; (10) a single microfiche can hold 270 pages of printed data; (11) although COM offers many advantages, there has been a reluctance in some cases to use it; (12) COM systems began emerging in 1958 but did not gain widespread acceptance in government and industry for a decade; (13) the federal government is now a major COM user; (14) other agencies share COM equipment procured by agencies or purchase services from commercial centers; (15) some agencies have acquired COM recorders and developers on the basis of their needs without considering whether other agencies could share them; (16) when an agency has a COM recorder/developer for its exclusive use, the equipment is frequently underused; (17) service centers providing diverse, prompt services could make COM's advantages available to many federal agencies and increase equipment use; (18) although COM service centers have been established in the government, they have not been accepted government-wide; and (19) service centers could provide economical COM services, and as COM becomes widely accepted and the demand for services grows, greater economies could result.
- Review Pending
- Closed - implemented
- Closed - not implemented
Recommendation for Executive Action
Recommendation: To provide for orderly and productive use of COM equipment, the General Services Administration (GSA) should: (1) inform federal managers of the benefits of using COM; (2) suggest that agencies investigate whether COM could increase productivity and lower the cost of information systems; and (3) encourage federal agencies to share existing COM equipment, especially in areas where federal agencies are concentrated. GAO believes it will be helpful to congressional committees considering agency requests for additional funds to augment ADP systems. Committees having oversight responsibility for GSA may be interested in the effectiveness of GSA's efforts to encourage more COM use.
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