Fable: The Thief

40 years ago one of those popular myths which arise from time to time achieved worldwide credence. The myth was the imminent advent of the ‘paperless office’.

The myth alarmed one company which made its money from selling copying machines. If paper wasn’t going to be around to be copied then, thought the companies’ execs, their company would be put on the scrap heap.

Being get-up-and-go kind of guys, the execs decided that their company would be a supplier of  whatever machines were needed for the paperless office.


Because they didn’t know what machines would be needed by a paperless office, the execs hired 50 of the best researchers they could find and put them together in a building to figure that out.


Three years later, the researchers had pretty much figured out exactly what machinery the paperless office would need.


But the company let in a visitor who copied all their ideas and got to market with them first.



MORAL: A good thing is soon copied.



  1. The problem for many documents is how to replace the old-fashioned signature, a problem that still lacks a fully satisfactory solution.

  2. It’s a funny old world, Scunnerous

  3. Thief? Really? It’s my understanding that Xerox agreed to the uhh, technology transfer and was “paid” with shares in Apple, which if they kept are worth a hell of a lot more than Star would ever have made. Meanwhile, we have people who print every email, on a laser printer which uses the “xerographic” process, so that it can be filed in a cabinet.

  4. Thanks [Anonymous] I see the date of Jobs’ visit was actually 1979 the Apple II was lauched in 1977. The floppy disc was added in 1978 and Lisa launched 1983.

  5. I don’t think that the actual timescales tie up with the fable. According to Wikipedia the Xerox star was commercially available in 1981 while the Apple Lisa was not available until 1983.
    Of course the Star cost $75000 while the Lisa cost just $10000. I expect the thief you are referring to is Mr Jobs, who also stole the best parts of the Lisa to produce the Mac.

  6. Xerox per chance ? But, who was the visitor ?

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