I was looking at a signed contract from a very old deal yesterday, when it struck me that it hadn't been scanned at any point during its life. It was the only definitive version.
This is actually pretty unusual these days; there tend to be multiple scanned copies of most important documents floating around in email archives and on hard drives.
Not so long ago I would have felt nervous about not having a hard copy of a document:
"all we have is a scanned version..."
Now it feels like we have reached a tipping point.
The lone hard copy seems dangerous: it isn't backed up anywhere; nobody can easily track it down if I store it in the wrong place; and God forbid someone leaves it on the train.
It feels a bit like carrying around a large wad of cash (not a familiar feeling for me I should add) or a banker's draft. If it's lost then that's it.
It's probably because of my move to a paperless system for my personal documents, but now that I can have OCR scanned versions of everything stored in PDF format across multiple cloud backups, paper just seems like a drag.
I may as well keep everything for ever in digital format and just search for things as I need them. The cost of storage is trivial and it's not like I trip over piles of archive boxes when I go out into my garage.
Of course, this sense of security could evaporate in a hurry if the electricity goes off for an extended period of time (which is why I still have hard copies of the really important stuff).
Is this really a worry though? If you subscribe to the view that society is only four meals away from anarchy then it may not really matter.
In these circumstances not being able to access my car leasing paperwork is likely to play second fiddle to evading the hordes of ravening zombies (or whatever particular flavour of post-apocalyptic scenario takes your fancy!).
In day to day life, the more interesting question is whether these scanned copies will be any use if there is a legal dispute, which is something I will be looking at in a future post.
Finally, can we all agree on what the scanned version of a hard copy document should be called? "Soft copy" seems to be common parlance amongst lawyers, but doesn't really work for me! Digital version seems more accurate, but it's a bit dull...