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One of the biggest challenges in the IT space, is migration from legacy systems, often mainframe’s, to modern day operating systems and applications. Legacy systems still exist today in the form of classic green screen UNIX systems. Their life has been extended due to the critical nature of the data they contain. Modern day standards have been put into place hoping to avoid this problem in the future. However, those applications that seem most critical to conform to standards such as hospital medical records systems, airline systems, and government systems still do not conform to any. The vendors who make these systems have every intention of making it very hard to migrate from. But there is a way, and it works very well. OCR.

You may have seen in a previous post where I eluded to the possibilities of using OCR to scrape screen-shots. This is one of the best real examples of why the technology is so useful. When you don’t have XML and ODBC or any of the other great standards that allow the exchange of data from one system to another, you always have what you can see, and if you can see it you can OCR it. If you can view the data on the screen, you can move it to a new system.

Using OCR to either problematically or manual read portions of a screen where the legacy system window is displaying data, copy it to memory, and paste it into the new system is one of the most ingenious ways to ensure the neutrality of your data. Vendor lock down attempts, or old technology should not prevent you from getting to what you own, the information.

Whether it’s a manual process or a programmatic one, the ability to OCR screen-shots and to migrate data is the hidden secret to crack any proprietary software safe.

Chris Riley – Sr. Solutions Architect

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