Way back in 2002, I posted an entry musing about the paperless office and my largely paperless lifestyle. I happened across this entry tonight while looking for something completely unrelated, which was funny because it had occurred to me a couple times in the past couple weeks to post here about the fact that I almost never use paper any more.
I still do all my magazine reading on the computer. I almost never write letters on paper any more. I send submissions to SWAPA (the APA I'm in) as PDF files. I write notes to myself on my Treo or on a laptop. Once in a while I need a sticky note to put on someone's desk at work, but I almost never print anything out at work, and rarely receive paper from others there. (This isn't some kind of company policy or anything; I'm pretty sure that many or most of my colleagues use paper at various stages of the writing and/or editing process. I used to print out my work documents and edit them on paper, but these days I nearly always use the computer.) On the rare occasions when I submit a story for publication somewhere, I do have to print it out--but only if I'm submitting somewhere that doesn't take electronic subs. I get some bills on paper in the mail, but a fair number of them are electronic now. For a while I was printing out maps from Google Maps, but now I've got that on my Treo too. And so on.
But as I noted in that old entry, physical paper does provide a bunch of useful affordances that aren't generally easily duplicatable on a computer. Which is why I was blown away when someone synchronistically pointed me to a video showing an experimental digital desktop. Nearly seven minutes long, but totally worth watching all the way through. It starts out cool, and then it just keeps getting cooler. For a while I was thinking "Yeah, that looks neat, but I bet it wouldn't really be all that useable in real life," but by the end I was pretty convinced. The photos-and-web-pages stuff starting around 4:45 is gorgeous. And possibly the neatest effect in the whole video comes around 5:30--I had just thought "Wouldn't it be cool if you could--" and then they did.
The interface they're showing off in that video is an experimental work-in-progress prototype of something the researchers call BumpTop. At that site, you can also read PDFs of their papers about the interface, and sign up for their mailing list to be notified when it turns into an actual product you can use on any computer (I am so there), and read their FAQ (once it's posted), and follow a link to someone's BumpTop parody video.
This is the coolest experimental research prototype video I've seen since the Multi-Touch video last year, which was the public's first glimpse of an interface resembling the iPhone interface.
It's possible that the BumpTop wouldn't actually suit my needs in daily use. But I really really want to play with it regardless. And given how much of the remaining paper in my life lives in stacks around my desk and on my living-room table, it's clearly a metaphor that would make sense to me.