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Printed documents may self-erase in future

Original post made on Jan 2, 2008

Printed matter is literally disappearing at Palo Alto Research Center, Inc. (PARC). In partnership with Xerox Research Centre of Canada since early 2004, PARC scientists have been developing "erasable paper," temporary documents that self-erase within a matter of hours.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 1, 2008, 10:15 AM


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Posted by A.L.
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 2, 2008 at 6:36 pm

This is a great idea. However, I wish the brains at PARC would deal with another fundamental barrier to paperless office: one big reason people print so much is that printing is still usually the easiest, least time-consuming way to deal with paper tasks or even moving the information from one arena to another.

Anything that requires interfacing to transport documents for different tasks usually means solving time-consuming technical problems. For example, I still don't use many functions on my new computer that I used to before the operating system upgrade that made many of my peripherals non-functional!

The last time I was able to easily send FAX'es directly from my computer was TWO or THREE operating system upgrades ago - maybe more, it was more than one COMPUTER ago - I haven't had the time to spend setting up that functionality again and learning something new, it's just easier and faster to print and send via the FAX machine. (When I say I haven't had the time, I would point out that solving these problems often involves an amount of time that is impossible to estimate beforehand.)

Another problem is signing letters to FAX. If I want to sign electronically, that's another technical task to resolve. I used to cut and paste my signature, but my system upgrade made my drafting software (into which I had scanned my signature) not work right, and I haven't been able to install the upgrade, because I actually bought two upgrades that I never had time to install, and can't find the first one (which I need to be allowed to install the second one). I haven't been able to use my scanner since the last system upgrade, but it's on my long list of technical problems to solve...but I can't just scan in my signature again to a different software program because my scanner is temporarily out of commission...

Please nevermind the details in the paragraph above, they are a few examples of, sadly, many.

*****The point is, the ONE task people will make sure they can do on the computer, without fuss, without wasting time fiddling with the technology, is print.********

So often, even if there is a nifty electronic way to handle a task, they will still print first and then manage the document/information, because printing is the one task that won't require oodles of TIME to resolve technical problems, learn something new (all the more frustrating if one had learned how to do a task a certain way and then some upgrade negated it), or buy new peripherals (or accessories to make them work right) or interface equipment.

To the people at PARC - IMO, the best way to think about paperless office is not in terms of paper use, but in terms of people's TIME. Solve the time sinks in using technology, and you will find the way to paperless office. (At least, it would work for me.)

All that aside, I find that my ability to review a draft is better somehow when it's on paper - I find more mistakes. This paper would be EXCELLENT for multiple drafts with minor changes to letters. If you could just pop it back in the printer, even with type on it already (which I'm assuming will disappear as the new type goes on?), that would be fabulous. Does the pen they are talking about disappear, so that hand revisions would also disappear? So long it is reasonably priced, it would be a wonderful alternative. The problem I see is in people using regular pens accidentally to make revisions and ruining the paper for reuse.

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Posted by Peter
a resident of another community
on Jan 2, 2008 at 6:44 pm

And it would be great for miscreants, perhaps even those in government, who want to erase their tracks.

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Posted by janette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 3, 2008 at 5:16 am


I use, which lets me fax documents directly from my computer and receive them as email attachments with no fax machine necessary. Word, tif, jpg, pretty much whatever is acceptable to it. I have used it for several years with no problems. It is also very cheap, about $10 a month and 5 cents a page. Of course, you can scan in anything into jpg or tif, etc.

I don't know what to suggest about your apparently lousy drafting software or scanner. I have an hp 3210 all-in-one printer, scanner, copier which was quite cheap, less than $200 I think (of course, they get you on the ink.)

It scans beautifully. I was able to scan tiny 1 1/2 inch sq 1940s photos for a family history project and enlarge them to excellent 4x6s. Copying ditto. It also comes with free software for adjusting the scans, which I used on some old color photos that had degraded, or to adjust exposures.

In several years of use, I think it has jammed maybe twice, and was a cinch to remove the paper from.

The software installs from a cd or the hp website. Just on principal, I never install updates from anyone.

I find that most people really do not care if something is actually signed. If it is necessary, I plop a signature onto the document with Paint.

One thing I wish computer manufacturers would do is halt their march towards notebook screens that cannot display a full page of "paper" without it being reduced to a tiny font. This trend towards making screens short and wide and (gak) reflective because that's apparently suitable for games ignores the customers who use these to create documents. I have stocked up on a couple of old Pavilions with the larger screens from ebay and just hope I can keep getting them repaired.

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Posted by A.L.
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 3, 2008 at 11:40 am

Thanks for the suggestions. I actually have software that worked quite well, and I hear my current OS allows FAXing, my problem is just time - every little upgrade or change results in lots of things that have to be fixed to get them working again. My KVM switch doesn't work right anymore with the system upgrades - I spent $100 on a new mouse, which solved the problem for all of a few weeks until I upgraded the other computer. Now in order to switch between the computers, I have to restart them several times again. Grrr. There are literally dozens and dozens of examples. *****Who has TIME to keep ironing out all these problems?***** I still use my old Quadra for accounting because it's the only computer in the house that has had all the problems worked out of it and I can reliably get something done without any FIDDLING. (BTW, I am a Mac user, can't blame this on PC's.)

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Posted by A.L.
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 3, 2008 at 11:41 am

Correction - "Now in order to switch between the computers, I have to restart them several times a DAY" (not "again")