SpyVsSpyRedBlack In case y’all haven’t noticed, I’m kind of a subversive guy. While you may think that kind of thing doesn’t apply to the fields of information science and library work, you’ll find that they tie together nicely. So it gives me a little thrill when I see something that might be used for info science and counterculture.

Take a little programme called PaperBack. PaperBack takes computer files, turns them into a code, and then prints the code on a paper. It’s a method of backing up files for safe storage either on or off site. To recover the files, scan the paper with a standard scanner using the TWAIN interface.


The idea of backing up a computer file to a piece of paper may sound counterintuitive. Why do that? Why not use a hard drive, or a service like Amazon S3? Those will both work dandy for many things but you’ll find that, in the event of a natural disaster, you’ll probably be unable to reach the internet for some time. The hard drive is okay, but what if it crashes or fries? I mean, you wouldn’t want to back up your entire drive like this, but what about passwords and bank information and personal stuff that you simply cannot be without? As long as you have access to a working computer and scanner, you can get your files back.

And anymore, most computer printers are all in one varieties with scanners, faxes, and other stuff.

But what of counterculture or subversion, or even legitimate use in the information sciences or library work?

Strangely enough, there are still plenty of libraries in America and all over the world with limited to nonexistent internet access. So mail them a sheaf of papers and they scan them. It’s a decent alternative for places like Iran where a flash drive may be searched, but papers hidden in a stack of other papers might go unnoticed. Internet may be monitored, but not a business person entering the country with a file box full of tax forms. One could transport computer data without any computer hardware on them whatsoever.

As Gibson said “The street finds its own uses for things.” I’m certain there are even more uses for something like PaperBack than I could ever think of.