Staples! / by Erin Wade

How do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways... 

How do I hate thee?  Let me count the ways... 

Ah - the staple.

This humble device has roots going back to the 6th century BCE, according to Wikipedia, and that same (incredibly riveting article) puts the first use of the word in reference to binding of paper back to 1895. In short, the paper staple has been dutifully serving our paper binding needs for well over a century.

They are the bane of my existence.

One of the realities of aspiring to a paperless office is that not everyone shares your aspiration - they still give you paper. This is to be expected, and anyone who provides a service has to be prepared to accept materials in the format the customer is comfortable providing. Keeping a good scanner at the ready is a part of life for any paperless office. Choose your scanner well (I can heartily recommend the Fujitsu SnapScan series) and you'll find that even large batches of documents get processed quickly and efficiently.

After you prepare them, that is.

The staple is certainly an effective means of semi-permanently bonding papers together. For this reason, the tiny staple is also the single biggest obstacle to the efficient processing of documents in a digital office.

Why is that you ask?

(Well, let's be honest: you are really asking "does this guy really spend that much time thinking about staples?"... But I digress).

There is, of course, the removing of the staples. This is time consuming and a little frustrating, as it seems that every third staple is certain that its current position in the universe is where the great stapler in the sky intended it to remain.

But there is also the fact that the process of removing the staples also alters - bends, reshapes, and sometimes tears - the paper. This presents issues with the pages as they are often then reluctant to cooperate with the document feeder on the scanner. Sometimes this is because they want to remain wed to their comrades, sliding through two and three pages at a time. At other times the pages will grab at the top of the feeder like the Dread Pirate Roberts at the Cliffs of Insanity.

As the "free" newspapers that sometimes spawn unwanted in my driveway will attest, it seems pretty clear that we are still a decade or so away from going fully digital as a culture. While we navigate through this painful, awkward transitional phase, ladies and gentleman, I submit for your consideration:

(imagine drumroll here)

The Paper Clip

The paper clip has been with us, apparently (thanks Wikipedia), for even longer than the paper staple, and so deserves our appreciation as a stalwart and loyal companion. Paper clips rarely accidentally poke holes in your fingers. Plus, they do a bang-up job of holding papers together.

And, as a bonus, the Wikipedia page for the paper clip is infinitely more interesting than the page for that troublesome staple. Apparently there is a controversy over who the actual inventor of our modern paper clip is.

With that kind of drama and excitement, how can we not embrace it?