Xerox Invents Software That Lets Faxed Paper Instruct PCs
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ It took three years, 50 patents and many late nights for Xerox Corp. to invent its latest communications tool - paper.
Paper that can command personal computers from afar, that is.
On Monday, Xerox introduced software technology that lets people use paper with written instructions to communicate with PCs via facsimile machine, the first time paper has become an interactive part of PCs.
Sales people on the road could retrieve a document from a PC back in their office using only a fax machine. They also could fax a paper-based report to the PC and have the computer store it for later use.
″The significance is that it allows information to be removed and used from a distant location - and without another PC,″ said Tim Bajarin, an industry analyst with Creative Strategies International Inc. in Santa Clara. ″That a paper document can do this is the revolutionary part.″
The product, called PaperWorks, can retrieve, store, distribute and organize documents. It was conceived by scientists working at Xerox’s respected Palo Alto Research Center, which was credited with inventing the personal computer in the 1970s and the laser printer more recently. Xerox, based in Stamford, Conn., is best known for inventing photocopy machines.
Z Smith, one of the PaperWorks inventors, said the center had been working on the software for three years after deciding that a ″paperless″ office could never be accomplished despite the availability of high-tech machinery.
″Sometimes paper is just the right medium,″ Smith said. ″We’re creating a bridge that moves information back and forth, whether it’s on paper or on a PC. It’s a move towards the realization about how people actually work.″
The $249.95 PaperWorks was written for PCs powered by an Intel Corp. 386 or 486 microprocessor, or ″brain,″ and with Microsoft Corp.’s popular Windows operating system, which controls software programs. The computer must have a fax board installed to send and receive faxes.
To operate, users create forms that can include instructions such as ″send,″ ″store,″ ″copy″ and ″retrieve″ next to boxes that are marked with a pen to indicate what the PC should do after receiving the faxed form.
PaperWorks also lets users obtain a list of fax mail received by their PCs while they were out, and then open all or any part of the messages.
If a PaperWorks owner forgets to bring along customized instruction forms or has run out, he or she just faxes a blank piece of paper to the PC and the machine sends back more ″smart paper″ forms to use.
Carolyn Grossman, a marketing director for Xerox, said the company sees two prime target customer types for PaperWorks: people who work out of their homes and business travelers who don’t have laptop or notebook computers.
″Instead of having manila envelopes in your briefcase, you can keep paperwork in your computer and just pull it out when you need it,″ Grossman said.
Tom Willmott, an analyst with Aberdeen Group Inc., a Boston high-tech research firm, said he expects more companies will write software that makes better use of existing technology like the 7 million fax machines in offices.
″There’s nothing earth-shattering about faxes, or scanning technology to (let computers) look at documents,″ he said. ″But putting that together to let people use their computer from a distance with simple paper is very clever.″