It’s official, Rock, Paper, Scissors is going paperless…well relatively paperless. Come on now, our roots are in print design. None of us want to totally give up that smell of ink on a newly printed sheet. That would be ridiculous.

Our paperless conversion is actually focused on the boxes and boxes of client files and billing reports we archive. Or should I say, have to keep track of. Once we have completed purging our client files, we will be remanding all of our backups to digital media.


When we were strategizing how the paperless process would take place we started to discuss the correlation between the cost of digital storage and the practical aspect of going paperless. We started talking about the evolution in digital storage and how the declining cost of buying digital storage is the key to making paperless possible.

How far back shall I go? Well, from the invention of papyrus by the Egyptians until the mid-20th century there were very few options for data storage. In the beginning there were clay pots and  ancient monasteries. In the modern age,  there are large warehouses with boxes of full of data, file cabinets with file folders, flat file storage for large drawings and a personal favorite of many, the shoe box. Just imagine how many warehouses of just individual tax returns were filled by the IRS. Mind boggling! How did anyone every find anything? Libraries got a handle on their volumes of print material by using the Dewy Decimal System, a truly amazing cataloging system. The library’s retrieval of data was neatly stored in beautiful rows of wooden file drawers on 3″ x 5″ index cards. Still, no search function, just flipping cards.

Then in the early 1950’s magnetic tape provided the first inexpensive mass storage capability. When I say inexpensive it was still a boutique item – not something your small business could afford. But this was a start. 1956 was the dawn of magnetic disc storage. The IBM 350 disk file consisted of 50 magnetically coated metal platters with 5 million bytes of data. The first disk of its kind was delivered to Zellerback Paper in San Francisco. Does anyone else find that ironic?

To give you some idea of cost, in 1961, the IBM 1301 Disk Storage Unit had purchase price of $115,000 and had a capacity of 28 million characters!

A major break through was in 1967 with IBM’s 1360 Photo-Digital Storage System could read and write up to trillion bits of information, the first such system in the world. They only built five but this was a tipping point in digital computing.

The only large capacity, digital units literally filled a room. It was not until the early seventies that we see the appearance of the floppy disk and a much more affordable digital storage option, however the capacity was limited. The floppy disk also made data portable, you were no longer confined to a mainframe. Wohoo!

By request from Wang Laboratories to produce a desktop drive, Shugart Associates introduced the 5.35″ flexible disk drive and diskette in 1980. Five times more capacity (5 MB of data) than the floppy disc in the same space as floppy drive. Development really starts to speed up at this point. In 1981, Sony delivers the first 3/5″ floppy drives and diskettes and set the stage for a breakthrough in formatting which gave them an edge over other product developers.

Fast forward. Now we live in the clouds. Thanks to internet development and the capacity of hosting providers data storage has become affordable and easy to access.

Even if we look at the cost of removable hard drives compared to main frame storage cost of the past the change in amazing.
1961 – $115,000 to store 20 million characters – .006¢ per character
2011 – $75.00 for 1TB external hard drive – .00000075¢ per byte, a fraction of the cost just 50 years ago

Affordable large capacity drives have also given individual companies access to massive amounts of storage which now rival the cost storing boxes and boxes of hard data. We now talk in terabytes instead of megabytes and the cost per byte has dropped exponentially. So, going paperless is not only good for the planet it’s good for the bottom line.

Categories: News from RPS