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Post-It notes

Post it notes. Yes, you read correctly, that’s what it says. When I was charged with the task of writing about the supposed “delights” of little yellow pieces of paper, you could probably understand why I was initially finding it hard to really get that enthusiastic. But the political and cultural slant that this magazine takes makes it necessary to persevere with a number of topics, and so I shall have a go at this one. Although, having now researched into the topic, it is interesting to note that the history of yellow sticky paper is, well, interesting, so keep reading. Here is the process; I shall explain, and you shall learn.


The post-it note has come a long way since its humble beginnings and has now firmly instilled itself as a key piece of office stationary that no self respecting office nobody could do without.

The Happy History of the Post-It Note

The Post-It note was enigmatically, even inexplicably invented when Vicar Art Fry applied a new type of adhesive glue developed by 3M employee Dr Spencer Silver to a piece of paper to create a bookmark for his hymn book. Accordingly, Dr Spencer and Mr Fry gave birth to the first ever post-it note. The happy couple developed the idea in the 1970s. The origins of its yellow colour are not commonly known, though it could be speculated that it may be due to the lack of yellow biros at the time (also true of the present day), which would have been rendered camouflaged and hence confusing the recipient.

A quick look for “post-it notes” on Internet search site Google reveals a bafflingly implausible 1.36 million matches. The search also reveals that there are a lot of mad people in the world, but that’s not a point which will be looked at here. My search initially descended on a site which referenced post it notes as tools involved in neo Nazi fascist hostage taking. A bit far fetched, I moved hastily on.

Post-It Note 2006 – Preventing a Communications Breakdown since 1970

It is possible that the rise of the post-it note was due to an inherent need to protect society from the much vaunted breakdown in communications highlighted by Led Zeppelin in the song of the same name. Conjecturally, there is little doubt that to this day, the post-it note has been integral in ensuring the continuity of such communications, manifestly in the office environment, in spite of the physical absence of the communicator and recipient. It enjoyed a strong and well deserved reputation in its early years, touted at the time as “the new telephone,” albeit one which only allows single direction communications.

Today, the post-it has developed new popular uses such as serving as a flip book for crude animations for bored office temps, as well as being a good way of establishing one’s territory and possessions that are theirs.

The Future: Flies of the world unite! Post-It Notes for the 21st Century Generation

Apparently, spider legs may hold the key to the future of post it notes as they have sticky properties which are more advanced than the current system of stickiness. Recent pioneering research has led to the discovery of van der Waals force. Elaborate stuff indeed, but here is a question: do we really need stickier post it notes? Are they not already sticky enough?

The research carried out in Bremen, Germany, advocates the potential ‘exciting’ possibility that the technology will allow post it notes to stick “even if they got wet or greasy”. There are intriguing and interesting ramifications of this I’m sure (though I cannot think of any off hand). Leaving these technical achievements aside for a minute and questions arise relating to the ethics of the use of such spiders in experimentation of this kind. Apart from the possibly cruel spider-experimentation which must have occurred to make this discovery in the first place, the fact remains that stickiness is crucial to the well being of spiders, but would serve as being a mere office convenience to us at best, unless you happen to work in gale force winds and have a pressing need to remind yourself of some guy’s phone number. And it’s raining in your office. Are we really going to deprive a spider of its ability to stand on the ceiling in order to make more long lasting smudges on people’s desks? Would there be any real winner in either of these two scenarios? Only the flies, I would suggest.

It would be easy to be cynical about this. Past memories of post-it note-related sticky fingers which become increasingly clammy throughout the day rest uneasily in the memory. An attempt to remove the wretched stuff from fingers often results in bits of brown or black gristle conjugating together on your tips. Notes stuck to people’s desks seemingly innocently by fellow work colleagues or friends become gluey hotspots for days once removed by the hapless recipient, serving as a constant reminder not only of what may have been written on it, but also of the delivery method. I would term this the post-it note ‘fall out zone’, which must be avoided until the natural properties of the stickiness concede to the natural course of time.

All this research into improving the technology in post-it notes is sure to bolster prices too, though, conversely, I must admit that we cannot sit in the era of the dark ages for any longer than may be necessary. If this is the digital age, and if the post it note is to hold up against Sky TV and mobile phone games like “Snake”, then maybe spider research costs may be a necessary price to pay.

Just don’t ask the spider whose job it is to add the sticky to the notes his opinion.