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A fingerprint classification procedure using a computer is described. It classifies the prints into one of ten defined types. The procedure is implemented using PICAP (picture array processor). The picture processing system includes a TV camera input and a special picture processor. The first part of the procedure is a transformation of the original print to a sampling matrix, where the dominant direction of the ridges for each subpicture is indicated. After smoothing, the lines in this pattern are traced out and converted to strings of symbols. Finally, a syntactic approach is adopted to make the type classification based on this string of symbols.