Hard copy

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For the television series, see Hard Copy.
"Printout" redirects here. For the British computing magazine, see Printout (magazine).

In information handling, a hard copy is a permanent reproduction, or copy, in the form of a physical object, of any media suitable for direct use by a person (in particular paper), of displayed or transmitted data. Examples of hard copy include teleprinter pages, continuous printed tapes, computer printouts, and radio photo prints.[1]

Hard Copy Records, such as printed forms, tab cards, and OCR forms, are best designed using a record layout.[citation needed]

Magnetic tapes, diskettes, and non-printed punched paper tapes are not hard copies.[1]

The term "hard copy" predates the age of the digital computer. In the process of producing printed books and newspapers, hard copy refers to a manuscript or typewritten document that has been edited and proofread, and is ready for typesetting, or being read on-air in a radio or television broadcast. This traditional meaning has been all but forgotten in the wake of the information revolution.[2]

"Dead-tree edition"[edit]

Dead-tree edition refers to a printed paper version of a written work, as opposed to digital alternatives such as a web page. It is a dysphemism for hard copy. Variations include dead-tree format and dead-tree-ware. "Dead-tree" refers to trees being cut down for raw material for producing paper. Newspapers are, sometimes pejoratively, referred to as the dead-tree-press. The Guardian website on 29 November 2006 wrote:

Maybe this is more a multimedia victory for Jeff Randall himself: he did manage a dead-tree front page, web scoop, vodcast and major plug on the 10 O'clock news.[3]

A related saying among computer fans is "You can't grep dead trees",[4] from the Unix command grep meaning to search the contents of text files. This means that an advantage of keeping documents in digital form rather than on paper is that they can be more easily searched for specific contents. An exception are texts stored as digital images (digital facsimile), as they cannot be easily searched, except by sophisticated means such as optical character recognition or examining the image metadata. On the other hand, paper copies have tremendous data integrity in proper conditions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hard copy as defined in Federal Standard 1037C.
  2. ^ hard copy as defined by Merriam-Webster Online.
  3. ^ Kiss, Jemima (28 November 2006). "A cross-platform victory for Jeff Randall". Guardian. 
  4. ^ Jargon File, article "Documentation"

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the General Services Administration document "Federal Standard 1037C" (in support of MIL-STD-188).