Just before the semester begins, I take my freshly updated syllabi to the neighborhood Office Depot to make copies at the self-service copy machine. Today was the day.
I've been doing this twice a year for ten years and I've noticed changes over that time. It used to be that you'd write the number of copies you made on a slip of paper and then pay the clerk at the counter. Now, the machine takes your credit card, counts your copies and spits out a receipt at the end of the session. An insignificant change, probably. But it meant that I didn't get to have my usual "how are things going?" conversation with Tiffany as she rang up my bill. I looked over at her; she was tremendously busy multi-tasking at the counter and the copiers behind it. I'm sure this little change in the self-service area was a huge sign of progress in terms of her job challenges.
Other changes have happened inside the copy machines themselves. The machine now photographs your page and prints exact duplicates. The older machines, non-photographic, made duplicate copies that were just a tad different from the original, often showing random marks called "noise." I miss those machines. We artists used them like creative tools. We'd make a copy of an original, then make a copy of the copy, then make a copy of that copy. We'd keep at it until the image flattened out, blurred, and got eaten up by noise. Then we had something interesting! It could be a finished art piece itself, or could be used toward any of a number of ends. I liked turning those copies into photo stencils for screenprinting.
Ten years of changes at the ol' Office Depot. I made my copies, grabbed my receipt and headed home.