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Ode to Metric Paper

Via boing boing, a wonderful article on ISO paper sizes:

The United States and Canada are today the only industrialized nations in which the ISO standard paper sizes are not yet widely used. In U.S. office applications, the paper formats "Letter" (216 279 mm), "Legal" (216 356 mm), "Executive" (190 254 mm), and "Ledger/Tabloid" (279 432 mm) are widely used today. There exists also an American National Standard ANSI/ASME Y14.1 for technical drawing paper sizes A (216 279 mm), B (279 432 mm), C (432 559 mm), D (559 864 mm), E (864 1118 mm), and there are many other unsystematic formats for various applications in use. The "Letter", "Legal", "Tabloid", and other formats (although not these names) are defined in the American National Standard ANSI X3.151-1987.

While all ISO paper formats have consistently the same aspect ratio of sqrt(2)=1.414, the U.S. format series has two different alternating aspect ratios 17/11=1.545 and 22/17=1.294. Therefore you cannot reduce or magnify from one U.S. format to the next higher or lower without leaving an empty margin, which is rather inconvenient.

The new American National Standard ANSI/ASME Y14.1m-1995 specifies how to use the ISO A0-A4 formats for technical drawings in the U.S. Technical drawings usually have a fixed drawing scale (e.g., 1:100 means that one meter is drawn as one centimeter), therefore it is not easily possible to resize technical drawings between U.S. and standard paper formats. As a result, internationally operating U.S. corporations increasingly find it more convenient to abandon the old ANSI Y14.1 formats and prepare technical drawings for ISO paper sizes, like the rest of the world does...

Both the "Letter" and "Legal" format could easily be replaced by A4, "Executive" (if it is really needed) by B5, and "Ledger/Tabloid" by A3. Similarly, the A-E formats can be replaced by A4-A0. It can be hoped and expected that with the continuing introduction of the metric system in the United States, the ISO paper formats will eventually replace non-standard paper formats also in North America. Conversion to A4 as the common business letter and document format in North America would not be too difficult, as practically all modern software, copying machines, and laser printers sold today in the U.S. already support A4 paper as a standard feature.

I have to admit, by the time I finished reading the article, I was thinking to myself, "Why don't we adopt metric paper, anyway?" and "Maybe I should just start using metric paper on my own."


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That's obvious... from a Western view. And how about the paranoia of "being different" driving left side, measurig in miles, yards, feet, pounds and all that incoherent stuff?

Metric paper is cool. When I ran across the original article (about a year ago), I went right out and bought some. Well, actually I didn't. Staples didn't carry it, and neither did WalMart or Office Max. The local stationers and office supply stores didn't even know what it was.

So then I tried the web. Not much luck there.

Called the 1-800-staples number. Asked the customer assistant for a ream of A4 paper (I'd order a box if necessary).

"A4 paper, hmmm, is that the big 11x17 stuff?"
"No, its metric size."
"Is that some kind of drafting paper?"
"No, its about the same size as letter paper."
"Oh, why don't you just use that?"

After making up some excuse about needed to product a document for a european customer, and international standards, I was transferred over to their "special needs" department, and then escalated through three levels of help there, where I finally found someone who knows more about paper than I do.

Tada, one ream of 8.27" by 11.69" paper.
Hammermill part number 10303-6. UPC 10199 00303

The Journey is the reward.

Excellent post. While I can deal with the Imperial system for other things, this "Letter/Legal" thing drives me crazy. And on a side note, why do we have to reset printing options to A4 everytime (in Mac OSX)?

Didn't we try this metrication crap back during Peanuthead's administration.

They went nuts posting speed limit signs in metric, metric numbers on the speedometers, etc, etc.

You see where it is today, don't you?

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