Re: Alternatives to icky polluted snailmail, was Re: fighting Anthrax w/ Dr. Strangelove

From: Michael M. Butler (
Date: Sun Oct 21 2001 - 10:24:50 MDT

Dan Clemmensen wrote:
> Yeah, I'm mostly a software guy. I've been developing products for 30
> years, but they don't have moving parts.. I envision a tele-operated
> mail opener connected to the back end of conventional "mail handling
> equipment". The mailroom guy would dump the mail into the input hopper
> of the mail handling equipment, which would then output one pieces at
> a time into the teleoperated opener, where the operator would open the
> pieces and scan them. A glove box would suffice, but it's not cool
> enough and is not amenable to later automation.

Let's constrain the problem a bit further to include only mail no thicker
than 1/4 inch and no larger than an Overnight Letter envelope. How do you
handle those big stiff cardboard envelopes? If the system is truly centralized,
how do you handle floppy FedEx Tyvek envelopes? How do you clear jams?

I've slept on this--the handling systems the USPS uses to direct mail could
be a starting point, but they're still based on the assumption of benignity.

> >>You are correct that reading scanned text or Fax on the screen is slower
> >>for some people,
> >>
> >
> > Nearly everyone who speed-reads, AFAICT. Also, with "landscape" format and
> > current screen sizes, one can't take in an entire page at a glance.
> For those of you who can really benefit for it, print the file to a
> high-quality printer and read it that way.

Whenever I have to proofread, say, that's exactly what I do.

> > Paper carries more information than a scanner can
> > transmit. The value of that information is not calculable by Shannon methods.
> >
> From this I infer that you don't read stuff that was generated by
> computer and then printed? Such a paper copy cannot have more
> information than was already in the computer in the first place.

Nope and nope.

Too large a leap, here. :) Ask any archivist at the Bodelian Library what I meant. :)

Even speaking of things I print myself which have never hit paper before, sometimes
I print on cream-colored laid paper, sometimes I print on textured granite gray.
It makes it easy to sort papers with visual and tactile cues. I know that any piece
of paper that's plain white wasn't something I printed.

But I was talking about the original paper. Some correspondents spend a lot of time
designing their (paper, etc.) look & feel. This goes away. You can't tell if they used
kaolin clay impregnated paper, or expensive inks, or gold leaf, or whatever.

The system-as-medium is still lossy, and that's what I was pointing out.



My moronic mnemonic for smart behavior: "DICKS" == 
diplomacy, integrity, courage, kindness, skepticism.

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