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Does Paper Still Have a Future in Our Lives?

Girl with blank diary and pen sitting on wooden bench In this digital age, it is sometimes difficult to remember that a hard copy is always the most reliable way of preserving material. Technology continually changes and updates - and one system of saving material keeps replacing an older version so that, in time, there could be no way of recalling the original archives. The equipment required eventually becomes obsolete. It was not too long ago that we thought we were heading for a paperless society - but it has not happened. Paper products have continued to be popular and have by no means disappeared. And paper is a very tactile and satisfying commodity - the demand for handmade paper keeps on growing. The more technical we become, the more "nostalgia and a nod to the past" play an increasing role in our lives. And paper, pencil and the written word are all part of that. Those working in offices still consider the use of paper documents to be a critical part of getting their job done. Fortunately, we are getting more conscientious at recycling paper and cardboard while forests are planted and replaced in a much more sustainable way.

Can old school and new technology combine?

It seems it can...

One company has spent more than three years developing a paper tablet. By making a digital paper tablet, they are convinced they have combined the best of two worlds - the optimum capabilities of the computer and the distraction free, creativity forging pen on paper. They have discovered that for many, the feeling of using a sharp pencil over an empty, white sheet of paper is still preferred. While for others keyboard is king, this company has made it important to understand the subtle differences between the pen and the keyboard and why so many people still use pen/pencil and paper - even though typing on a keyboard is faster.

They have discovered that research shows writing by hand is in many ways superior when it comes to learning, creativity and productivity. The company (known as reMarkable) claims that their product closely replicates the feel of paper. Designed for writing and sketching, rather than merely reading, their tablet has been made for "paper people". "The surface has to have the right friction," says Henrik Fuller, "the pen has to give the right sense of touch and speed. Paper is the best way to think, the best way to express your thoughts but in a digital world it's not perfect because it is hard to share and hard to organize. We think we've solved these problems."

At the same time, they have resisted the temptation of including a web browser in this particular digital device, allowing the freedom of paper-based expression and tools to organize thoughts.

I can totally relate. I use a page-a-day paper diary to record appointments, make my to-do lists, keep financial records and much more. I use a paper weekly plan for my work schedule, happily ticking off when each task is achieved. I would never dream of using electronic versions.

Back to basics with scribbling

James Ward (author of the book Adventures in Stationery) says: "Electronic devices are great for organizing thoughts and making sense of things but scribbling is the crucial first step. All the great inventions, ideas, songs, works of art and scientific theories started as scribbles." He adds: "We grow up with paper. As children, we take a sheet of paper and a crayon and we create worlds. It's a magical thing."

Preserving your photo images

Photographs are such a good example of the importance of hard copy and the changes that digital technology has made to how we live our lives today. How many of us have taken and stored digital photographs on our computers, phones and other devices without a thought of printing out the most important ones to keep for posterity?

The very best photographs for longevity are of course black and white. I remember how in the 1980s, Agfa color film (once printed) had the habit of taking on magenta tones - certainly not ideal for archival material - but that was just for a year or two before Agfa sorted out the problem.

If you value your digital photographs, it is so important to make that effort to ensure you have some hard copies for future reference, for families and friends to look back on and for your descendants to wonder at! One way is to have album/books printed (showcasing your favorite photos) by specialist companies.

For many of us, paper still has a purpose - and very much a future - in our lives.

Writing is just having a sheet of paper, a pen, and not a shadow of an idea of what you are going to say.”

Writer and Novelist Françoise Sagan