Post-it Note celebrates 30th birthday

VHS tapes and walkmans may have been firmly cast into oblivion but another 1980s invention, the Post-it Note, is marking its 30th anniversary this month as popular as ever.

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The little yellow square of paper that changed lives was actually the product of an engineering mistake by 3M scientists who accidentally stumbled upon an adhesive like none other that could stick and be repositioned on just about any surface.

It has remained among the top five best-selling office supplies in the United States each year ever since.

The three-by-three-inch (7.6-by-7.6-centimeter) pad has also evolved over time and now comes in eight sizes, 25 shapes and 62 colors, including the original Canary Yellow, sold in 150 countries.

“It’s one of those things that can’t get any better than it already is,” said Syracuse University professor of popular culture Robert Thompson. “Nothing comes close to replace it, a beep on your phone or a digitalized reminder.”

The sticky pad’s investors, 3M scientists Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver, were even inducted last month into the National Inventors Hall of Fame alongside the inventors of synthetic diamond and others “responsible for the great technological advances that make human, social and economic progress possible.”

“My guess is people will still be using Post-it notes in a hundred years,” Thompson told AFP. “It represents some things that were very prominent in the 80s: a much more complex life and the desire to control that complexity.”

3M vice president William Smith marked the sticky reminder’s anniversary by recalling that consumers report daily that “life without these iconic products is simply unimaginable.”

The group has launched a competition for students aged 11 to 18 to create original artwork out of Post-it products.

It has also kept a steady eye on the future. With environmental sensibilities on the rise, 3M launched this year a new product line, the Post-it Greener Note, engineered with a plant-based adhesive and 100 percent recycled paper.

“By demonstrating product versatility and a commitment to contemporary consumers’ concerns, such as sustainability, the Post-it brand continues to introduce new and innovative solutions to the world,” Smith said.

His firm’s handy pad has met the challenge of responding to the needs of a society obsessed with efficiency, organization and to-do lists.

“The Post-it note made life easier for people in today’s fast-paced world full of information,” said Fry, 78, as he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame three decades after marketing Silver’s wonder adhesive.