Aug 27, 2021

(+) Don’t Print This Article!

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Consider the environment. Do you really need to print out this article?

I occasionally receive e-mail messages from newsletter readers asking various questions about how to print articles published in this newsletter. I also frequently hear comments at genealogy conferences and elsewhere from family historians stating, “I printed it out to save it and…” or similar words.

I have one question: Why?

I believe that many people print information on paper simply as a matter of habit. We were brought up before the age of computers and were taught to record everything on paper. For many of us, we have spent years making photocopies of old records and then storing those papers in various filing systems. Some of us, myself included, have spent a lot of money purchasing four-drawer filing cabinets to store all the various pieces of paper we have accumulated. Yes, I own two four-drawer filing cabinets, which I now consider to be a waste of money and floor space.

When computers were in their infancy, we printed things for long-term storage. Computers prior to the year 2000 had limited storage capacity, making it difficult to guarantee future access to stored documents. In addition, the media of choice up to about the year 2000 was not designed for long-term storage. The floppy disk drives that were commonly used had a life expectancy measured in months or perhaps a very few years. CD-ROM disks were introduced in the 1990s, but the life expectancy of those plastic disks isn’t much greater than that of floppies. Most of us have always assumed that paper was the best choice for long-term storage.

Even worse, use of removable disk media isn’t convenient; identifying and retrieving information stored on a removable disk (or flashdrive) kept on a shelf requires some sort of a sophisticated filing system which most of us have never created. No matter how good the filing system is, searching for an obscure word or phrase in the middle of thousands of documents stored in hundreds of disks sitting on the shelf is usually a frustrating experience.

Indeed, there have always been good reasons for storing records on paper.

Until now.

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