Paper in the Information Age

When I had my last contract job at The Company that Must Not be Named a lot of my officemates would print out and photocopy almost everything. This always struck me as a wasteful slaughter of trees for the sake of a few useless notes made at a few useless meetings.

Today I read a New Yorker book review that offered a good explanation as to why paper still persists in this post-Internet world–paper and the notes we make on it are a way of embodying internal mental processes.

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3 Responses to Paper in the Information Age

  1. This is a related rave that must be told.
    I do ALOT of computer modelling of big-ass structures for my company. Back when I started out, building a computer model using a text editor and the input file grammar was the norm. It was a very efficient method that many tools were built around.
    Then this crap called a windows GUI came around. Now instead of cutting pasting and typing, one had to point, click, drag, and drop until ones wrist turned red. It has its place for about 3% of the things we do, but it is not repeatable and easy to adjust when the model parameters change. Also, one has to maintain about 6 computer models of the same structure depending on the boundary conditions and material properties. Can’t beat sed and cat in my book.
    Just recently, I had to do some post processing from an analysis. The developer, who is not an production engineer, provided only a facility to export text files of the time-history response. I called him and said “you expect me to export over 600 files, one at a time, with 10 point, click drags and drops, from your %^&$^ program?”. I convinved him to give me the binary file format of the data, and I was able to do write something to do the post-processing I require.
    I really get pissed when a developer, who never really has had to do production work, tells me how I should work and what I need. F*&*(, bite me.
    [In memory of Jim Peters, 1968-1999, friend and peer]

  2. Well, the infamous Mr. Farlops has a bug in his site that lets one keep “dropping thier science”. Please erase the 3 previous repeated posts.
    I also wanted to add that the GUI crap really takes the mental visualization that is required when creating a computer model using a text editor. Structural analysis is not CAD, and it is very dangerous to treat it that way. It’s not connect the dots, but an interaction between material properties, geometric properties, constraints, restraints, mass distribution, etc. When you have to see what you are trying to model in your head first, you are less likely to do poor modelling. Yeah, man.

  3. Pace Arko says:

    Yes, I am aware of this bug. It exists in the script. If a person flips back to the submit page or the preview page and hits the submit button again, the preview page will print that comment to the file again. This bug also exists in many forms processing scripts, for example, many shopping cart scripts, for the same reason, allow the user to accidentally make multiple purchases on their credit card. Bad. Actually the bug really exists because HTTP is a stateless protocol–the server, unless you use a cookie or a script session variable on the server-side, has no memory of who each client is and what they just did in your server.
    I’ll put a warning above the form to explain the bug until I think of a way to fix it.
    Anyways. About your comments. Yeah, I agree. One of the reasons why power users prefer the command line is because it allows you to automate things in ways the GUI designer doesn’t expect.
    In the NT or DOS prompt, you can write batch files and you can do some piping of input and output. In various unices, the command line is far more powerful that. You can pipe the output of various commands like sed into other commands like grep or into files or even into other scripts, since those are just text files as well.
    You can’t do this in a GUI. If the designer didn’t anticipate a way to automate a certain task, your case in point, you’re stuck writing a script in VBA or the Windows Scripting environment.
    The NT command line, although it is better than the DOS/Win9x command line, still isn’t as good as the various *ix shells. Microsoft seems to want to hide NT’s powerful scripting abilities away from even system administrators. If you know what you are doing, you can get a lot done in the NT prompt. Still, *nix is a better, if only because so many of the system parameters are set by text files–much easier than registry!

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