Carbon copy

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Carbon copy

Before the widespread introduction of the plain paper copier in the 1970s, the only way to get a duplicate of a typewritten document was to make a carbon copy at the time of writing.

This process used a sheet of carbon paper sandwiched between the original and a new piece of paper. When the typebar letter strikes, it presses hard enough to make the original and for the carbon to be deposited onto the second piece of paper below it.

This worked pretty well for one or two copies, but each subsequent copy got worse and worse if you tried to add too many.

The original was the best the machine could produce. It was sharp and clear because the typebar smacked a thin ribbon impregnated with carbon infused ink. Each subsequent layer below was softened by the paper layer, then the carbon paper layer.

During this same era the only way to make a copy of a tape recording had the same issues. There was the pristine original and then every subsequent copy got a little worse until it became unlistenable.

The savior for both technologies was the advent of the computer which—instead of converting finger presses or soundwaves into another physical form—converts the incoming data into a mathematical construct—a crude version of how our brains work.

The world we had built before the 60s and 70s was based entirely on different forms of electrical/mechanical representations of the physical world. Far cries from how our brains perceive and manipulate our environment.

I like to think of this in terms of eras. Before the 70s and the computer, we had the Physical Era that had a wonderful 10,000 year run. And from the 70s forward, the Cerebral Era where we move away from being held back by the laws of physics and the practical.

Many of us are comfortable leaving the Physical behind and revelling in the Cerebral. Others dabble in both.

Which era are you most comfortable in?

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Paul McGowan

Founder & CEO

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