Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Copy, what's a copy? Oh near enough'll do....

I remember the days when the xerographic process was a mechanical physical operation of light and toner on a drum, so your copies - though they came out slightly worse for wear - were identical to the original, there was no digital tom follery and there was no middle man here.

And perhaps there never should have been, save for the cost of duplication, to minimise costs copiers started to use digital scanning, I noticed this rise about twenty years ago, when the office copier, which we'd lovingly beaten into a pulp for splashing us with toner and smashed the glass on by sitting on it, was finally replaced, and we got a machine noticeably smaller and lighter doing 10x the speed.

This new machine of course as powered by a computer, but at the time then the computer was pretty rudimentary, we're talking Pentium 60mhz being bleeding edge, and embedded solutions like in this copier much much more low power, so of course they used a compression mechanism.

I remember distinctly being told this copier had 32mb of ram, in a era of 4mb standard on the desktop, 32mb seemed like acres.  And the technician told us it could have up to 256mb in module updates... ooooo.....

I always trusted the copier, and assumed it did a 1:1 copy, oh how foolish I feel with this news in the headlines.

Of course a computer is doing this, so its using compression, but never ever did I think about this, nor did I ever think it would be a good idea for that compression software to CHANGE the figures on a copy!

I mean, that's the sole purpose of the hardware, to get form a to b the exact same image data, yet it does not?  And then I thought about the comments further, this software is READING, interpreting, the copy its making changing 6's to 8's.. that's not solely just image break up, that's a decision being made, that's OCR, that's bloody worrying.

I don't want machines reading my documents, I don't want the laser printer to refuse to print because my document is stupid, I don't want the machine to make any assumptions that it knows best, the phrase after all is WYSIWYG... What you see is what you get... I don't W Y S I N W Y G B W T M D F Y.... What you see is not what you get but what the machine decided for you.

The whole affair smacks of too technical a result being squashed into the machines to make them cheaper, and an utter and total lack of testing to any decent degree.  The fact that this problem was only spotted in 2013 begs the question whether this is a new innovation back firing, or a long standing issue as well!

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