3.1325 Trees (branching out...) (106)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Fri, 27 Apr 90 17:08:54 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1325. Friday, 27 Apr 1990.

(1) Date: Thu, 26 Apr 90 18:57:38 EDT (35 lines)
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: the need for printout

(2) Date: Thu, 26 Apr 90 22:06:21 -0400 (71 lines)
From: amsler@flash.bellcore.com (Robert A Amsler)
Subject: minor replies

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 90 18:57:38 EDT
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: the need for printout

This is in response to Charles Faulhaber's latest, itself in response to
Bob Amsler's note about saving trees.

I have electronicized the process of writing as much as I think
possible. I take notes on the computer and, with a short detour to
printed paper slips, arrange and form them into an outline on the
computer. Typically a paper I am writing doesn't otherwise touch paper
until it is nearly complete. Then, however, I reach the stage at which I
must have a printout, first so that I can read the whole thing through
and see if the argument actually makes sense, then so that (like
Faulhaber) I can proofread it. I said "a printout" but I really mean
several -- perhaps as many as 6 or 8, with relatively minor changes from
one to the next.

I am wondering if anyone has studied this need for hardcopy that I have
described. I think that there are two quite separate problems here that
I use paper to solve. The first is that a screen (even, I presume, a
Sun's) doesn't allow you to see enough at once or to read what you've
written in a relaxed setting. The second is that for some reason, as
Faulhaber notes, proofreading is exceedingly difficult onscreen. I
wonder if the pulsing of the screen, which I imagine we must see even if
we don't know that we see it, has anything to do the difficulty of
attending to tiny details, such as spelling and repeated words. Does
this pulsing entrain oscillators in the brain, as pulsing light in other
contexts is known to do?

Saving paper is a worthy goal indeed, but I think that machines won't do
this for us.

Willard McCarty
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------83----
Date: Thu, 26 Apr 90 22:06:21 -0400
From: amsler@flash.bellcore.com (Robert A Amsler)
Subject: minor replies

A couple of points irked me in the replies.

(1) renewable resources

This is mostly a cop out. The dinosaurs WERE a renewable resource
until they became extinct. All endangered animals and plants are
renewable resources. The problem is something has to be renewing them.

Consider a term such as `self-renewing resources', i.e. resources which
currently are renewing themselves faster than we are consuming them.
I must confess I don't know of any outside of sunlight. Certainly
clean air, water, and vegetation are not being renewed as fast as we are
destroying them. It is nice that they ARE renewable, but it won't
do us any good. Human beings are a `renewable' resource, but this
tends to not be given as an argument against fighting starvation.

(2) computers and environmental impact

The truth is that we couldn't operate our current civilization
without computers. The volume of paper being used each year in
conjunction with computers today is indeed higher than the volume of
paper which was used each year before computers were invented---but
I'd claim the volume of paper which would have to be used to operate
civilization each year if we turned off all the computers would be
more than it is with computers doing as much as they are.

Further, I would claim the trend is for computers to continue
decreasing the volume of paper usage. You must remember that the bulk
of paper usage is not involved with books in libraries, it is
involved with things like running the government, banking system and
industry. The reason there are things like 24-hour turn-around on
mastering CD-ROMs is that these are used to convey the information
that runs the economy now. POS (Point-of-sale) terminals eliminate
a lot of paper accounting reports entirely.

Paper can simply not do the job any more and it is for that reason
that alternate magnetic and optical media are being used. Computers
are reducing the total volume of paper used to run civilization
because there is no other economic alternative. Paper is too slow
for the rate of civilization because paper is materialistic. It has
to be physically carried about and that takes too much time and labor.

We do have a momentary obstacle in the inadequate display screens we
currently have. Most public facilities nowadays are JUST getting
dumb terminals installed. In 10 years they will have high-resolution
bit-mapped displays and with them greater use of these as
replacements for paper display. But already we see the impact.
Library are closing their card catalogs. Government offices and
hospitals that would have had paper copies of your records are
calling up the information on display screens.

Some adaptation will be required. Some people will still insist that
they want to look through the printed copies of the Periodical Index
going back year by year and volume by volume to find the reference
they want---but most people will rapidly embrace an on-line 20-year
cumulative search capability. Some lawyers will continue to search
the law literature by having law clerks climb up and down ladders
and extract volumes from shelves in big rooms---but I'm told that
most firms today wouldn't dream of doing away with LEXIS.

Personally, I find the paper in my office to have decreased
dramatically since the days of line printers. 8.5x11 sheets with 8
point type hold more at least as much information as their line
printer output page equivalents and I print out fewer pages since it
is so much easier to get copies now.