The Evolution of Paper Shredding
In this day and age, most businesses take paper shredders for granted. This handy technology has been in use for as long as most people can remember, and while shredding equipment has improved dramatically over the years, it still performs the same basic function it was originally conceived for – destroying data in hard copy format.
If you think about it, although most people don’t, the paper shredder is a fairly brilliant invention. Consider that before this tool existed, the best way to do away with documents was by burning them. Just imagine the hassle and risk of planning a weekly bonfire to destroy confidential documents, or worse, the size of the fire you’d need to get rid of years’ worth of business records when upgrading to digital data storage.
You might wonder who came up with the concept of a paper shredder and how it has evolved into the advanced machinery we enjoy today. Here are the high points of the evolution of paper shredding.
An Invention before Its Time
You might be surprised to learn that the patent for the first paper shredder was filed with the U.S. Patent Office in 1909 by inventor Abbot Augustus (A.A.) Low. His Waste-paper Receptacle purported to offer “Disintegrating by knives or other cutting or tearing members which chop material into fragments specially adapted for disintegrating documents”.
The simple drawings show a cylindrical cutting tool located above a basic waste bin, with a feeder mechanism, either manual or electrical, to pull the paper through. Incredibly, he even devised a closed circuit for the electrical version that would switch on when paper was inserted and switch off when no paper remained in the feeder.
The Manual Paper Shredder
Unfortunately, Low’s ingenious invention did not take off during his lifetime – he died in 1912. However, the concept was taken up by Adolf Ehinger, a German toolmaker, who filed his own patent in Germany in 1935. Unlike Low, Ehinger was lucky enough to live in a time when a handy tool like the paper shredded was about to become a prized piece of machinery, and he had the wherewithal to market his manual machine to the right industries.
The Impetus of World Events
It could be argued that World War II and the resulting Cold War served as the perfect driving force for the growing popularity of the paper shredder, and Ehinger made the most of it. While different factions were busy making and breaking codes, Ehinger marketed his paper shredder to the government and military, as well as financial institutions. This smart business move perhaps solidified the simple paper shredder as a necessity for any institution creating confidential documents that they might eventually need to get rid of, possibly in haste.
Since then, paper shredders have played their part in some major world events, including the 1972 Watergate scandal and the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, just for example. Today, these devices are used by businesses and private individuals alike to destroy confidential data in hard copy format, and innovations like cross-cutting technology have helped to make the confetti they create impossible to reconstitute.