Re: paperless?

Subject: Re: paperless?
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 11:09:05 EST

Tom Little writes:
>Paper is the only medium that doesn't require playback equipment.

Well, it's not the only medium, but this is a disadvantage for electronic
text. Please remember, though, that this was in the context of a paperless
_office_, in which we can assume not much work of any kind will get done
without power (ie no lights, no phone, no computer...)

>- it's not subject to technological obsolescence

Neither is ASCII. When your computer is connected to other computers,
data _format_ is what matters, not hardware obsolescence.

>- you don't need to be in a special place to use it

Not true. You need light, a steady place to rest your hands, freedom of
vision (ie you're not driving).

>- you don't need special skills to use it

You need to be able to read. Which means you better not be blind.

>- it can be passed from person to person without worry

Except, of course, that two days after you give them a copy it's out of date,
and you have to print out another copy and mail it to them (expensive and
slow). If you just give them read access to the electronic source, this
problem disappears.

So: yes, electronic text requires playback hardware, and energy to power the
hardware. However, it allows for playback by a larger number of people, in
a larger number of situations and with differing backgrounds and capabilities
(with speech synthesis, for example, you don't need to be able to read to
have access to a document); it is more portable, more updateable, more
searchable; in the context of an interconnected, computerized office, I think
paper use is definitely heading downwards. I think the same thing will
happen with the rest of the world, gradually, as computers become a common
household item, and interconnectivity becomes the accepted norm.

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

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