Perhaps The Paperless World Isn't Such A Myth

from the mythbusting-the-myth? dept

At the beginning of the personal computer revolution, there were plenty of predictions concerning things like the "paperless office." However, during the 90's it was widely decided that the paperless office was a myth -- and, in fact, the use of computers had actually generated even more demand for paper as there was more stuff than ever before to be printed. Perhaps, though, the myth of the paperless office was a bit of a myth itself. Or, at the very least, it was merely off by a decade or so. The younger generation is less interested in using paper and more and more people are figuring out that they really don't need paper any more. This won't mean the end of paper over night, but it certainly appears that we're finally reaching a point that some had predicted decades ago, where people are recognizing that it's easier to store things digitally than on paper.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 8:46am

    Paperless world

    Hold on I need to go and print this out to show my boss.

     

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  2.  
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    Mart, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 8:53am

    Uh-oh!

    Time to sue all office workers, we've got to stop the paper industry from dying!

     

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  3.  
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    CoJeff, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 8:54am

    Provided that the hard drive where the digital information is stored doesn't fail. I've had 3 drives fail on me over the last 5 years. I'm just grateful the drives were the backup drives.

     

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  4.  
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    Overcast, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:00am

    Yeah, working in IT... I think paper copies of some documents are a good idea indeed.

     

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  5.  
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    Steve, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:02am

    I'm in an office going paperless. The problem is that the older people in the office seem to simply be used to using paper, whether it's more convenient or not. The really funny part is when someone gets irritated that I can't OCR a document back into a usable form, despite the fact that I keep explaining why documents should never be in paper to begin with.

     

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  6.  
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    Matt, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:08am

    Tablets to replace paper

    Until people have nice, cheap OLED-paper equivalents (maybe with a program in them to flip multiple pages) for when we want to send documents to people (said technology is probably only 2 or 3 years off, maybe 5 from cheap consumer level), I don't think we'll be rid of paper yet.
    Especially since the legal system has a lot of specific requirements for using electronic documents as binding vs paper, that stuff gets fairly complicated.

     

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  7.  
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    Glaurung, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:12am

    Maybe paperless had to wait for high resolution monitors. Back when they first predicted the paperless office, your typical monitor was 12 or at most 14 inches at an eye-bleeding 60hz. A sheet of paper held more information than a screen, and didn't flicker or glare at you. Now that 17 and 19 inch monitors are becoming standard, and LCD monitors have all-but eliminated the problems of screen flicker, monitors can now hold as much information as one or even two sheets of paper at full size, and reading off a screen is no longer massively less convenient and comfortable than reading off a printout.

     

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  8.  
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    Ferin, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:13am

    There'll always be a paper trail in the end

    Data is simply to easy to alter and tamper with wothout leaving a trace. Companies will still demand that their most sensitive information and archives have hard copies.

     

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  9.  
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    Ken, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:16am

    Paperless hurts my eyes...

    I am a young IT guy that stairs at the screens too much. Having some paper around helps save my eye sight. And produces a backup copy that has minimal chances of crashing (aka fire).

     

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  10.  
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    Jared, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:19am

    Paper trails and crashing drives

    With the advent of solid-state drives, setting up a redundant solid state storage (similar to a RAID) and at multiple locations would make data loss highly unlikely (about as likely as a fire destroying all of the paper trail.

    Also, the legal system has always been behind the curve of technology as it is filled with individuals attempting to cling to the past.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:42am

    Re:

    Buy Western Digital then.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 9:58am

    Re: Re: No way on WD

    Those drives I commented on failing were all Western Digital. I won't be buying their drives anymore.

     

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  13.  
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    Iron Chef, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 10:11am

    ePaper, Where art thou?

    ePaper really looks promising, especially for industries that rely heavily on IP or processes that frequently change.

    I'd like to point to VW-Audi AEB/ATW engine family and their timeless 1.8L timing belt repair process that was updated almost monthly before going to market with a redesigned engine.

    A concievable prototype would be something along the lines of an online repair manual solution for the auto industry, or other industries that may need rights management due to term-based IP licensing or possibly due to frequent deprication of processes, etc.

    The reality is that it would probably be a concept tried in Germany first.

     

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  14.  
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    Corey, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 10:13am

    moving that way

    Check out www.imagenow.com , they are a fast growing paperless system that many universities, hospitals, and other large institutions are adopting to at least take departments paperless if not the whole place.

     

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  15.  
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    ZeTron, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 10:17am

    Sarbanes-Oxley Act

    The main reason my company uses paper is for audit purposes called for in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. After the Enron scandal and the fall out paperless trails were frowned upon. It's a huge bummer because only about .01% of all the invoices we print and store are ever touched by human hands again. Huge Waste... It's good to see the trend moving again towards paperless

     

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  16.  
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    Iron Chef, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 10:25am

    Re: Tablets to replace paper

    I tried the tablet thing for a while, was extremely impressed with OneNote specifically. (Wow! Whoever did that needs a prize or something.)

    The problem however, was the equipment. I had a HP TX1200-series and it seemed like they tried to cram every thing under the sun in that machine. Sure, it was a consumer machine and for $2100 it should probably try be a traditional laptop.

    But if I had a "One Note Appliance" per-se with basic internet/outlook functionality that was under $1000 it would be a huge productivity enhancer.

    Thougts on how to develop the product:
    Consider what we do in meetings, and a "Meeting device" One with the basics- OneNote, Office, eMail, Internet, would be something that there's a market for. Make it rugged without the flip thing. If I sit on it while getting into a taxi, will it break?

     

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  17.  
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    HelveticaBlitz, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    Re: pragmati

    Document backup, definitely. Also: art proofing, and satisfying old fashioned tactile desires.

     

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  18.  
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    bob, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 11:10am

    The only time I print things out is when I'm marking them up, or I know using the computer isn't an option (which is rare).

    I think what it took was a combination of good laptops, wireless networking, and reliable servers.
    Yes, there are the holdouts and the people that just prefer paper. There are still people out there that have corded rotary dial phones too.

    The office will only go completely paperless when not using paper is more convenient than using paper.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    I work in industrial distribution, and until I can have 3 or 4 full size catalogs open on my screen ( and be readable ) we will never go paperless.
    When I need to compare dimensions and load ratings of 3 or 4 brands, it is just more convenient to have them all open in front of me, instead of flipping screens over and over.

     

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  20.  
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    Hoeppner, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 11:17am

    In my system implementation class we had to use a room without a computer, and had to take notes. Half the class didn't have a notebook with them.

    I needed to take a page out of my speech notebook, which is the only one I had on me that day.

    PS OneNote is very very nice to use. you can shove so much at it and it'll work.

     

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  21.  
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    Jim (profile), Feb 12th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

    We are closer

    to the paperless bathroom than we are to the paperless office. As my old boss used to say.

     

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  22.  
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    Murray Bowles, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 12:14pm

    Re: screen resolution

    That's it! Once screen resolution gets high enough that Times Roman is an acceptable screen font, paper will be done.

     

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  23.  
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    Etch, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 2:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: No way on WD

    Western Digital is horrible. I remember many resellers telling me that WD drives made in Taiwan (if I remember correctly) had very short lives and were nowhere near the quality of their older models.

     

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  24.  
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    Michael Long, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 3:01pm

    All drives fail...

    All drives fail. If you'd had a batch of Seagate drives then eventually they'd fail too and you'd be complaining about them instead of WD.

     

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  25.  
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    4-80-sicks, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Tablets to replace paper

    Until people have nice, cheap OLED-paper equivalents (maybe with a program in them to flip multiple pages)

    You mean, something almost exactly like a Kindle (already available)? Oh, and forget OLED. It's very cool, but also pretty short life. The e-ink used for the Kindle and similar devices is extremely good though, from what I've heard.

     

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  26.  
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    The Mangest One, Feb 12th, 2008 @ 6:04pm

    Paperless world

    There are a couple guys who have been talking about the same thing. Check out the link.

    http://lessociety.blogspot.com/

     

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  27.  
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    lilyofthevalley, Feb 13th, 2008 @ 7:02am

    I support the idea, but everyone needs to be on bo

    As was noted above by Jared in comment #10, at the very least, our legal system is too dependant on paper. On more than one occasion, I've had difficulty obtaining a paper copy of a cashed check when needed to prove to a company that, say, a last bill on a closed account was indeed closed with a zero balance. (For a while, I moved a lot due to my work, and especially with larger companies, they seem to have a habit of not sending you a closing statement showing a zero balance, then a few years later suddenly claiming you never paid that very last bill.)

    Having an image of one, if your bank even still has it available after a certain time, which many do not, is not enough for the courts, because they love to claim it's just a photoshopped fake...despite actual account statements that corroborate otherwise.

    Also with courts, often, having a digital copy of a contract as opposed to the originally signed copy is often contested.

    Without some sort of inexpensive method that is recognized and accepted by everyone to somehow tag a digitized document as real or original, this will continue to be an issue. I'm still waiting for some sort of electronic notary that the courts will actually recognize. And if such a thing does exist, why isn't it being put more broadly to use and the general public being informed as to its whereabouts?

    I'm sure there are other issues as well, in particular dealing with proving creation dates and/or authenticity, that I've not had to deal with. It seems that many people still mistrust digitized documents as there always seems to be stories of people creating fakes, whether it's a accounting books or contracts, etc. Gratis, hardcopy forgeries have a much longer history for obvious reasons, but we need to create more inexpensive (meaning, in part, available to anyone with access to a computer, not just the wealthy) methods to allow the groups that need them to believe that the digitized information is what it is before paperless can really be considered.

     

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  28.  
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    Overcast, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 12:23pm

    Having an image of one, if your bank even still has it available after a certain time, which many do not, is not enough for the courts, because they love to claim it's just a photoshopped fake...despite actual account statements that corroborate otherwise.

    Also with courts, often, having a digital copy of a contract as opposed to the originally signed copy is often contested.


    And really.. they shouldn't accept it, it is too easy to fake.

     

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  29.  
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    oregonnerd, Sep 6th, 2008 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re: Re: No way on WD

    ...And the WD drive that failed on me went 12 years. There was a study done mid-90s that there was vanishingly little difference between hard drives (at the time there were actually three makers, and lots of case makers as I recall). As far as solid-state, it only writes so many times. Perhaps we've come to the state, shockingly enough, where we have to consider what we say.

    ...Oops. I'll shut up.
    --Glenn

     

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