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How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF
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Computer Nerd Kev
2018-06-23 00:44:31 UTC
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Found in the links from the last article (quandary: does posting
things found this way risk forming an echo chamber around each
new site that gets linked to?):

How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF
Alistair Dabbs, 21 Jun 2018.
- https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/06/21/how_a_tax_form_kludge_gave_us_25_years_of_pdf/

"HTML is the world's most common digital document file format.
However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
same on any platform on any device. And it's hardly the format
of choice for immediate offline reading, easy sharing or simple
portability.

For that, you need PDF.

The Portable Document Format, first unleashed by Adobe upon a
baffled public exactly a quarter century ago, revolutionised
documentation, publishing, archiving and prepress, and brought
everyday organisations closer to the "paperless office" than XML
ever did. And yet it has only just recently been upgraded to
version 2.0.

It all began with a demo that went wrong, according to Adobe
co-founder John Warnock."...



It would be interesting to read a history of document formats in
general.
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Stefan Ram
2018-06-23 01:24:09 UTC
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|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
|The Portable Document Format, first unleashed by Adobe upon a
|baffled public exactly a quarter century ago
The public never experienced Postscript before?
Huge
2018-06-23 09:23:23 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
Thanks for reviving an ancient and terrible memory of the nightmare days
at Xerox Tech Pubs of reformatting huge documents from Legal to A4 for
the European market (or vice versa). Because each format is smaller than
the other in one dimension, you can't even just use the largest one, and
no-one was interested in using a "smallest common denominator" size. It
got to the point where we were shipping Legal paper and American 3-ring
binders to the UK because it was easier and cheaper than reformatting
the documents.
--
Today is Prickle-Prickle, the 28th day of Confusion in the YOLD 3184
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
RS Wood
2018-06-26 08:25:01 UTC
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On 23 Jun 2018 09:23:23 GMT
Post by Huge
It
got to the point where we were shipping Legal paper and American 3-ring
binders to the UK because it was easier and cheaper than reformatting
the documents.
I am told that US government offices working in countries where A4 is
the norm, ship boxes of letter sized paper for the same reason. Too
bad, after decades of using A4 I got to like it better, aesthetically -
couldn't tell you why.
Huge
2018-06-26 16:00:08 UTC
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Post by RS Wood
On 23 Jun 2018 09:23:23 GMT
Post by Huge
It
got to the point where we were shipping Legal paper and American 3-ring
binders to the UK because it was easier and cheaper than reformatting
the documents.
I am told that US government offices working in countries where A4 is
the norm,
IOW, all of them except the USA... :o)
--
Today is Boomtime, the 31st day of Confusion in the YOLD 3184
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
RS Wood
2018-06-30 01:52:56 UTC
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Post by Huge
Post by RS Wood
I am told that US government offices working in countries where A4 is
the norm,
IOW, all of them except the USA... :o)
I know, right? Shocking how so many countries could f*ck it up like that ...
;)
The Real Bev
2018-06-30 04:56:28 UTC
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Post by RS Wood
Post by Huge
Post by RS Wood
I am told that US government offices working in countries where A4 is
the norm,
IOW, all of them except the USA... :o)
I know, right? Shocking how so many countries could f*ck it up like that ...
For a long time our government used slightly smaller 'government-size'
paper to save... er... paper. Does it still do that?
--
Cheers, Bev
There are 2 groups of people you can make fun of on the Internet
without fear of attack: the illiterate and the Amish.
Huge
2018-06-30 08:57:14 UTC
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Post by RS Wood
Post by Huge
Post by RS Wood
I am told that US government offices working in countries where A4 is
the norm,
IOW, all of them except the USA... :o)
I know, right? Shocking how so many countries could f*ck it up like that ...
;)
:oD
--
Today is Sweetmorn, the 35th day of Confusion in the YOLD 3184
~ Stercus accidit ~
Paul Sture
2018-07-05 13:36:30 UTC
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Post by Huge
Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
Thanks for reviving an ancient and terrible memory of the nightmare days
at Xerox Tech Pubs of reformatting huge documents from Legal to A4 for
the European market (or vice versa). Because each format is smaller than
the other in one dimension, you can't even just use the largest one, and
no-one was interested in using a "smallest common denominator" size. It
got to the point where we were shipping Legal paper and American 3-ring
binders to the UK because it was easier and cheaper than reformatting
the documents.
A couple of memories of that:

1. The colleague who bought some 3 hole punches while on a business trip
to the US.
2. The colleague who got so frustrated trying to persuade various DOS
programs to print on A4 that he bought a load of US Letter sized paper.
Needless to say he couldn't get a US company to accept a UK credit
card or cope with the shipping, so he used the services of another
former colleague who had emigrated to the US.
--
Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.
-- Sylvia Plath
Huge
2018-07-05 19:46:45 UTC
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Post by Paul Sture
Post by Huge
Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
Thanks for reviving an ancient and terrible memory of the nightmare days
at Xerox Tech Pubs of reformatting huge documents from Legal to A4 for
the European market (or vice versa). Because each format is smaller than
the other in one dimension, you can't even just use the largest one, and
no-one was interested in using a "smallest common denominator" size. It
got to the point where we were shipping Legal paper and American 3-ring
binders to the UK because it was easier and cheaper than reformatting
the documents.
1. The colleague who bought some 3 hole punches while on a business trip
to the US.
2. The colleague who got so frustrated trying to persuade various DOS
programs to print on A4 that he bought a load of US Letter sized paper.
Needless to say he couldn't get a US company to accept a UK credit
card or cope with the shipping, so he used the services of another
former colleague who had emigrated to the US.
AAAaeeeeiiiiiii!!!!!!!
--
I don't have an attitude problem. If you have a problem with my
attitude, that's your problem.
Paul Sture
2018-07-06 08:10:25 UTC
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Post by Huge
Post by Paul Sture
Post by Huge
Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
Thanks for reviving an ancient and terrible memory of the nightmare days
at Xerox Tech Pubs of reformatting huge documents from Legal to A4 for
the European market (or vice versa). Because each format is smaller than
the other in one dimension, you can't even just use the largest one, and
no-one was interested in using a "smallest common denominator" size. It
got to the point where we were shipping Legal paper and American 3-ring
binders to the UK because it was easier and cheaper than reformatting
the documents.
1. The colleague who bought some 3 hole punches while on a business trip
to the US.
2. The colleague who got so frustrated trying to persuade various DOS
programs to print on A4 that he bought a load of US Letter sized paper.
Needless to say he couldn't get a US company to accept a UK credit
card or cope with the shipping, so he used the services of another
former colleague who had emigrated to the US.
AAAaeeeeiiiiiii!!!!!!!
I see I hit a nerve.

Another UK/US compatibility problem was in the early 90s when US
companies adopted phone menuing systems. UK and US tone dialling
systems didn't talk to each each other so you were stuck with having to
wait to speak to a real person. WHile that was arguably better in that
it avoided phone menu hell, transatlantic calls cost a lot back then.

There were gizmos you could buy which you held over the handset
microphone while you tapped the responses in, but these weren't exactly
comfortable to use.

It was eventually resolved at the telco level, though I never saw any
news items about it so haven't a clue about technical details.
--
Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.
-- Sylvia Plath
Scott Alfter
2018-07-06 17:16:52 UTC
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Post by Paul Sture
Another UK/US compatibility problem was in the early 90s when US
companies adopted phone menuing systems. UK and US tone dialling
systems didn't talk to each each other so you were stuck with having to
wait to speak to a real person. WHile that was arguably better in that
it avoided phone menu hell, transatlantic calls cost a lot back then.
There were gizmos you could buy which you held over the handset
microphone while you tapped the responses in, but these weren't exactly
comfortable to use.
It was eventually resolved at the telco level, though I never saw any
news items about it so haven't a clue about technical details.
Different frequencies used for DTMF, perhaps? Then again, when I lived
there in the mid-'80s, our phone still used pulse dialing (don't recall if
it was a rotary phone or a button-operated pulse dialer).

Then again, this doesn't seem to indicate the existence of incompatible
systems:

https://infogalactic.com/info/Dual-tone_multi-frequency_signaling

AT&T introduced the technology here in 1963, but it took until 1988 for
ITU-T to standardize it.

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Dan Purgert
2018-06-25 13:40:49 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
It's not saying that.

It's saying that a document formatted to "letter" will always look
exactly the same on any machine, and print exactly the same on any
(letter-size) paper on any printer.

That is, the pdf file won't get "corrupted(tm)" when opening it in an
older / newer version of your "office" suite of choice. Or that no
artifacts will occur due to interpretation differences (anyone remember
dealing with css in IE vs. Firefox vs. Netscape?)
Post by Stefan Ram
|The Portable Document Format, first unleashed by Adobe upon a
|baffled public exactly a quarter century ago
The public never experienced Postscript before?
Not really, no. At least not *directly* (in the same manner that they
experienced pdf).
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Rich
2018-06-25 15:20:55 UTC
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Post by Dan Purgert
Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
It's not saying that.
It's saying that a document formatted to "letter" will always look
exactly the same on any machine, and print exactly the same on any
(letter-size) paper on any printer.
That is, the pdf file won't get "corrupted(tm)" when opening it in an
older / newer version of your "office" suite of choice. Or that no
artifacts will occur due to interpretation differences (anyone remember
dealing with css in IE vs. Firefox vs. Netscape?)
Yes.

It helps if one thinks of PDF as "electronic paper". And even then, as
"fixed format, unchanging, electronic paper". One "prints" a document
to PDF "electronic paper" whereby the documents layout is fixed just as
if one had printed to physical paper.

But it does not help one convert a document that was fixed printed as
US Letter to properly fit some other size paper. Nor does it help when
one might prefer narrower or wider margins on one's electronic paper.
Or for any other change in the look of the output.

Adboe shoehorned in some attempt at PDF text reflow at some point in
the PDF lifecycle, but if one has ever tried using that feature in
acrobat it most often results in an unreadable mess.
Paul Sture
2018-07-05 13:43:45 UTC
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Post by Dan Purgert
Post by Stefan Ram
|The Portable Document Format, first unleashed by Adobe upon a
|baffled public exactly a quarter century ago
The public never experienced Postscript before?
Not really, no. At least not *directly* (in the same manner that they
experienced pdf).
The price of PostScript printers limited the layman's exposure to that
format.

HP (and possibly others) changed that with their own PostScript
emulator, and prices dropped substantially. I purchased such a printer
in 1999 when that was quite new on the scene. The firmware did contain
bugs, and updates were supposed to be available, but nobody I knew,
including one guy who would have definitely held the post of "camp
scrounger" in a WW II Prison Camp, couldn't get hold of the updates.
--
Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.
-- Sylvia Plath
Scott Alfter
2018-06-25 21:33:44 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
|However, it's not the one everyone turns to when they want to
|create a precise document that looks, prints and behaves the
|same on any platform on any device.
What does it mean for a letter-legal document to "print the
same" on a printer that prints only on "DIN A4" paper?
...or vice versa. In that case, though, you scale it to fit whatever
printable area you have.
Post by Stefan Ram
|The Portable Document Format, first unleashed by Adobe upon a
|baffled public exactly a quarter century ago
The public never experienced Postscript before?
Most of the public would probably give you a blank stare if you mentioned
PostScript. Besides, if you received a PostScript file from somebody and
went to print it on a device that (for instance) didn't have the same set of
fonts as on the sending end, you'd get different results as a result of font
substitution. Sending a copy of whatever non-standard fonts were needed was
often not an option due to licensing concerns.

PDF sidesteps all of that.

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Stefan Ram
2018-06-25 21:53:31 UTC
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Post by Scott Alfter
PDF sidesteps all of that.
Sometimes, the PDF reader tells me about a substitution
for a missing font (or something like this), but this
is quite rare.

(Kudos for the "Keywords" header to whoever added it!)
Computer Nerd Kev
2018-06-26 22:53:25 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
(Kudos for the "Keywords" header to whoever added it!)
I'm not sure if any newsreaders make much use of it, but I
sort things by tags often enough with blogs, so it seemed
silly not to endorse Usenet's equivalent.

It seems that newsreaders are divided as to whether to copy it in
replys. RFC 1036 doesn't give much clue as to the "right"
behaviour.
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Paul Sture
2018-07-05 13:48:08 UTC
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Post by Computer Nerd Kev
Post by Stefan Ram
(Kudos for the "Keywords" header to whoever added it!)
I'm not sure if any newsreaders make much use of it, but I
sort things by tags often enough with blogs, so it seemed
silly not to endorse Usenet's equivalent.
It seems that newsreaders are divided as to whether to copy it in
replys. RFC 1036 doesn't give much clue as to the "right"
behaviour.
It appears that neither your newsreader (tin), nor mine (slrn)
propagate the Keywords header. :-(
--
Nothing stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.
-- Sylvia Plath
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