Vision of the paperless office comes unstuck
Downtime dimly remembers a day back in 1972 when everyone started getting excited about the paperless office of the future.
However, judging by Microsoft's latest gadget, it looks as far away as ever, even if some firms do operate clean desk policies to give us a glimpse of what such a place might look like (but only if you're first to arrive in the morning).
Bill Gates and his crew last week launched on an unsuspecting world the miracle of Text2Paper - a device that turns text messages into stickers.
Microsoft reckons Text2Paper will provide a futuristic way of making labels for old-fashioned paper calendars.
Rather grandly, it makes the claim that the device "bridges both the digital and paper divide, and also the generational divide between those that are comfortable with paper and those comfortable with the cellphone".
But at the end of the day a sticky label is a sticky label - useful, maybe, but damn tricky to peel off.
Are we on the road to drive-thru police stations?
Last week Downtime brought you the news that in Japan it will soon be possible to pay for your fast food using your mobile phone, after a deal was struck between Japanese mobile phone operator NTT DoCoMo and fast food chain McDonald's.
The revelation prompted one future-gazing reader to look forward to a day when British police forces start installing undercover officers at the payment windows of drive-thru McDonald's to catch would-be criminals using their mobile phones to pay for the goods while in charge of a motor vehicle.
"That'll be three fifty for the food, plus a sixty quid fine and three points on your licence. We're off to the station."
Don't say we didn't warn you.
Virtual is virtuous, but isn't travel a lot more fun?
And finally, it is once again time to revisit an occasional but well-loved Downtime series: marketing puff dressed up as planet-saving eco-news.
This week we come armed with the latest figures from Interwise, a company that offers "unlimited voice, web and videoconferencing for the enterprise".
Interwise chose to tell the world last week that demand for its IP-based conferencing has risen by a dramatic 45% over the past year.
"This directly translates into CO2 savings for more than a million meetings across the globe conducted from the office desk without the need to travel," it trumpeted.
"If more firms were to upgrade employees' desktop tools to allow uninhibited access to virtual meetings, UK businesses could begin to contribute better toward the country's 2011 carbon reduction goals," said Tony Gasson, vice-president of European operations for Interwise.
"The CO2 savings from avoiding just one transatlantic trip are around 1.5 tonnes of CO2 even a medium-sized corporation that reduces its international trips by 20 per month is able to save 360 tonnes per year."
Unfortunately, all this good news is undermined somewhat by rather less encouraging stats contained in the same release.
According to the National Office of Statistics, UK residents made a record 66.4 million visits abroad last year, up 4% on 2005.
So the message is clear: use Interwise's service and do your bit to save the planet. You know it makes sense.
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This was first published in March 2007