I’m doing a little housecleaning and found this stack of old jobs shoved into an inaccessible shelf in a closet. These are all Japanese source documents, mostly faxes on flimsy thermal paper, with text now faded to pale gray. The stack is 24″ tall.
I didn’t make a careful survey, but it’s likely that very few of these papers are any newer than 1992; that’s the year I got a fax-modem. Since then, I’ve had a digital copy of almost every job that’s come to me. The paper copy (I always print out my jobs, regardless) is a temporary convenience–it’s not what I think of as the archival version. I kept around these old papers out of some completeness fetish, but really, the odds that I’ll ever want to refer to any of these (or that I could find what I wanted) are vanishingly slim. So away they go.
In the book In the Age of the Smart Machine, Shoshana Zuboff observed that when the back-office operations at an insurance company were first computerized, the operators still preferred to consult paper files: they considered the online information to be ephemeral and suspect, and felt that the information’s “real” form was on paper. Not me.
Interestingly, I’ve acquired a new client that has a completely paper-based workflow. But so far, I’ve been able to scare of PDFs of most of the documents they send me anyhow.