Screens are taking over. We’re closer than ever to the paperless and therefore to the penless world. Since it all started circa 1980 every few years the concept gets another boost, belying those who thought it is impossible. Every significant step in high-tech makes it more plausible that one day soon we are going to be there, that all written communication will be electronic and digital, that pen and paper will be artefacts that belong in the museum.
With Internet everywhere and all the time, with tablets and smartphones, we’re already more than half way through such achieving such feat. The many ways to input text today make it easy to work without pen and paper. Vocal recognition, styluses and virtual keyboards on touchscreens have become banal methods, whereas brain control of the screen, and therefore of typing, is just around the corner — not science fiction anymore.
A stunning video on Youtube, already watched by a half million visitors, is tangible proof that brain control is working now, not in ten years. Engineer Tan Le demonstrates how she can capture brain waves to let the wearer of the head-mount sensors control the movements of an object on a computer’s screen. And this dates back to 2008! From such trick to typing just by looking at a virtual keyboard on the screen is only one step.
Amazon says it has sold more than five million units of its highly successful Kindle digital book reader, or eBook as the format is generally referred to. The trend continues unabated.
E-mail is widely accepted as official, legally binding correspondence. Adobe’s ubiquitous pdf (portable document format) format makes it safe electronically to send all kinds of official and business documents, including contracts, for it ensures that these documents cannot be tampered with once created and locked. Another blow to paper.
It is known that the venerable cheque is a dying method of payment. So will be the expression “I’ll write you a cheque.” The first cheque was issued some 350 years ago in England. Today it is one the last official paper documents. Online banking, transfers and payment cards along with countless modern banking methods are expected to phase out cheques for good before 2020.
In December 2009 the Board of the UK Payments Council said: “The goal is to ensure that by 2018 there is no scenario where customers, individuals or businesses, still need to use a cheque.”
It all started in the early 1980s when the big names in the computer field back then were Data General, DEC, Wang and of course IBM. The expression Information Technology had not been invented yet in those days and saying “computer” was enough. The concept of a paperless office was referred to as Office Automation (OA).
OA brought a significant change in digitally written text with the appearance of word processing. Still, the slow speed of the machines and the high cost of disk storage did not really erode that part of writing with pen and paper; or so little. Yet, it was the beginning of the revolution.
Then came e-mail and Internet to drastically change things. This time the conversion was major and took the world by storm.
In the last five years or so the low cost of digital storage, the ever growing wireless digital technology along with widely accepted and used e-commerce and e-shopping, it all comes to kill paper and pen a bit more.
A simple look at a modern office, however small or humble it may be, shows that there are less and less box files on the shelves and more computers with mammoth-capacity hard disks.
I’m already looking at the beautiful books on the bookshelves in my TV room with the same nostalgia I look at the vinyl records I have kept from the past.