Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


Quicker and Easier…

The Information Society is upon us!   We have personal computers, laptop computers, tablet computers, smart phones, smart televisions, smart automobiles, and electronic readers of various kinds.  All these devices are supplemented by a plethora of places to store information -- including “the cloud”.  It seems obvious that with all these devices as our constant companions there should no longer be a need to use the old-fashioned storage medium – paper.  Should it not already be as extinct as the proverbial dodo bird?

Recently I had an interesting experience that led me to quite a different conclusion.  A client asked me to review several hundred technical documents and to sort them into a few pre-selected categories for possible future reference.  The documents were initially provided to me on a CD with each reference simply listed by a nondescript identifying number.  I was also asked to use a spreadsheet to keep track of how I categorized each of these technical references. 

This certainly does not sound like a particularly difficult task, does it?  Simply start with the first technical paper, review it, decide on the category, and then mark the proper entry on the spreadsheet.   So how much time should I allocate for this task?  A quick look at a few of the files gave me an average of about five pages per document.  It would take less than a minute to bring up the document but then it would require at least 15 minutes to review the approximately five pages of text and figures and make a categorization judgement.  Then I would need to close the file, open the spreadsheet and enter the information.  A total of about 20 minutes per document seemed like a reasonable pace.  So three documents per hour divided into roughly 200 documents comes to approximately 66 hours of dedicated effort.  Wow!   I really did not want to spend the better part of two weeks on this task.  

And then I received a call from the client that they really needed the results of my review in a few days. 

Was there possibly a better way?  

Since there were only a limited number of categories, was it really necessary to use a spreadsheet?  And was there any way to reduce the time it would take me to review each document?  What if I could simply pick up a printed copy, take a quick look at the figures and major headings, and make a decision in a few minutes instead of bringing up each page sequentially on my computer screen?  If I had these documents in printed stack, shouldn’t I be able to simply do a quick review and put each into a pile that represented the chosen category? 

So off went the request to get the CD fed into a copy machine to produce what turned out to be a stack of paper that was nearly two feet high.  What a waste of paper and copier time – perhaps you may be thinking?  Will this really result in a saving in time and in the overall cost of doing this project? 

Well, the good news is that I was able to get through all the documents in less than 15 hours instead of the 66 hours that I was estimating using only computer access.   By using paper, I was able to access each document instantly – simply pick it off the stack.  I was also able to sort and categorize with the same instant process of simply placing the document on the chosen stack.  The review process also became much faster and easier.  The figures were easy to find and peruse and the pertinent text could be found by a quick flip through the pages.  There was no need to go to a CD, find the file, open it, review it one page at a time, go back and forth between several screens to review figures and text, then close the file, open the spreadsheet, enter the document identifier, and fill in the category.     

The end result was a major saving in time and a happy client. 

Computers can do many things for us – many things that we were never able to do before.   But sometimes too much reliance can lead to a result that is exactly the opposite of what we thought we were trying to accomplish.  In this case, putting all the files on a CD seemed like the optimum way to get the information to me.  Obviously, it was much cheaper to ship a CD than a box full of papers.  However, at my end the process was made more difficult.  In fact, so difficult that it could not be accomplished in the desired time frame. 

Given this experience, I think we can expect that paper will be with us for some time to come.   It’s still a wonderful way to organize information and have quick access to it.  It may look like a messy desk but it’s often easier to find whatever we need than to look for a computer file, the name of which we cannot remember.  

Are you still a dedicated paper user or have you moved on to the predicted paper-less society of the future?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this topic or others.  You may reach me directly from this site, by e-mail at, or by telephone at 425-898-9117.            



19916 NE 30th Ct. Sammamish, WA 98074 Call 425.898.9117

Site by