Some "facts" are just too good to check -- like this one:
According to Information Management magazine, the amount of paper produced by business rose 65 percent in three years -- from 850 billion pieces in 1981 to 1.4 trillion in 1984.
That's a lot of origami birds.
Don't ask me how they counted, and don't tell me either. I don't want to know. A trillion -- 1,000,000,000,000 -- is such a nice, large national-debt-sounding sort of number that it's too tasty to pass up. But the trillions don't really matter, of course; it's more the thought that counts.
The thought is just how wrong all those "experts" were just a few short years ago when they predicted that personal-computer and PC networks would bring corporate America "a paperless office of the future."
That's proven to be nonsense. With a simple tap of a key, dot matrix/daisywheel/laser printers are creating paper blizzards/avalanches/glaciers that have cluttered desktops and file cabinets from coast to coast.
This phenomenon is known as "desktop publishing."
Don't get me wrong -- I think that desktop publishing may be the most important application to hit personal computerdom since the spreadsheet. But let's put things in context -- does it really matter that your departmental report is: A) printed with three different fonts; B) the charts are done in three colors; and C) the spreadsheets have the appropriate rows and columns highlighted?
It will be a monumental waste of time, money, paper and valuable human resources if "desktop publishing" degenerates into high-volume, high-quality printouts of typical corporate memos and reports.
What is so frightening are the claims made by the desktop publishing hardware/software companies asserting "improved productivity" for generating reports, memos, etc. Let's think for a moment about what productivity should mean. It better not simply mean "more!"
Forgive me for flogging this theme so often, but people have simply got to stop viewing the personal computer as a low-cost means to substitute machine work for human work.
Look to the PC to enhance the nature of one's work: Think of the flexibility a word processor provides when you're juggling paragraphs or the perspective a good spreadsheet offers when you test "what if?" assumptions on your financial model.
Instead of simply using your Apple LaserWriter to spit out a gorgeous-looking copy of a dippy memo, consider the design potential -- the publishing potential -- your marriage of PC and laser printer can provide.
Become your own Rupert Murdoch -- or for those within corporations where such excesses are frowned upon, become your own Farrar, Straus & Giroux or Harper's.
What does that mean? It means that the office of the future not only has paper, it also has paper upon which design and aesthetics are considered a valued part. Don't view the PC as a digital photocopying machine; view it as a design tool. Use the PC's graphics and layout capabilities to produce documents, not just print them.
Even the most artistically inept individuals can exploit desktop publishing design potential. Now there's software out there consisting of nothing but pictures -- animals, machines, logos, signs, charts, etc. -- that can be digitally cut-and-pasted into a working document onscreen for a touch of artistic flair. (I've started to get party invitations designed on Macintoshes and Imagewriters.)
There will be a flood of software like PageMaker (Aldus Corp., 616 First Ave. #400, Seattle, Wash. 98104, (206) 467-8165), that will let even a novice lay out and make up a professional-looking document.
I'll bet that within two years, there will be a hiring explosion for graphics designers who can do the layout and makeup of corporate documents. With any luck at all, people will come to expect and demand a certain quality of design in the papers they're asked to read.
There's a certain irony that desktop publishing -- using a new medium to enhance an old one -- is growing so quickly while the newfangled computer services like videotex and online retrieval continue to disappoint their backers. It's a healthy irony, though, if people take the publishing metaphor seriously and seek to improve the quality of their work.