Post-It notes were invented by Dr. Spence Silver, working at the research facility of 3M. Silver was looking for a way to improve the strength of acrylate adhesives. But the experiment failed; what he found was an adhesive that worked rather poorly.

Instead of tossing out the failed product, Silver found a brilliant way to use the glue. Attached to a a piece of paper, it made an excellent bookmark that would stick and remove without damaging the book.

By coincidence, Silver used one of his bookmarks to pass on some written information to his manager. When his manager returned the bookmark, they realized that they had just invented an interesting new product.

To elaborate on the story of the invention of the Post-it Note, Dr. Silver was looking for a bookmark that wouldn't fall out of his Hymn Book in Choir. (This is what reading every Newsweek special insert during childhood gets you) The adhesive he used for the Hymn bookmark had been tested and failed for a different product.

A few interesting Post It innovations: Post-it glue stick, which (much to my chagrin after assuming it was regular glue stick and using on a school project) affixes the object with the strength of a Post-it. I don't know why anyone would use it, nor if it is still manufactured (mine turned up in my pencil drawer and was labeled 'Not for individual sale').

Another, more recent Post-it product is the transparent post it. It's made of a sort of clear, thin, plastic. The best thing about these (besides the fact that they're more durable and you can see the text of whatever a normal, opaque Post-it would cover) is that when someone says "Wow, thats amazing. Clear adhesive!" you can say...

"Yeah. Like Scotch Tape."

(Take that.)
The Passion of the Post-It

The Post-It Note was conceived in church. A new researcher at 3m in the early 70s, Art Fry, found that the small bookmarks in his choir hymnal failed to remain within the confines of the song book, instead falling regularly to the floor. This infuriated him so much that he sought out the new adhesive of a colleague, Dr. Spencer Silver, and applied it to small pieces of paper, thus inventing an entirely new way to secure bookmarks in church hymnals.

Eventually, of course, the Post-It Note became one of 3m’s bestselling products, reinventing itself in ways far transcending the original and narrow hymnal application. Although initial research showed little consumer interest in the square goblins, by 1979 the product became a phenomenal success. The army of the small yellow squares seemed to be an unstoppable force, slowly dominating the formerly blank spaces on the corners of computer screens and cubicle walls.

In the early-80s, concerns arose that while the Post-It Notes were being used to carry more and more information, the brains of low-level office workers everywhere were carrying less and less, as they became increasingly dependant on the scraps of paper to remember the 4:00 PM meeting with the Assistant Vice President for Corporate Development, or to remind themselves that “Success = Brains + Hard Work”, or that Bobby needs to be collected at 2:30.

Memory loss was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however, as leaked documents from deep inside 3m’s corporate headquarters revealed the true nature and scope of the Post-It’s plans. Yellow 94, the seventh Post-It Note ever created and the unofficial leader of the Post-Its, was staging an attempted corporate coup to take control of 3m. Internal memos exposed the plot and the media swarmed. If Yellow 94 gained control of the company, he planned to mass produce his brethren until the sun itself was blotted out by the anemic yellow gobblers of graphite and ink. Yellow 94 was a born leader, with a deeper yellow tint than the later Post-It versions, a crease on his top left corner, and a ruthless drive to succeed. The news media found him simultaneously repulsive and magnetic and followed him obsessively. During the John Hinckley trial, Yellow 94 regularly captured the front-page headline above the recovery of President Reagan and the evidence against his would-be assassin.

Yellow 94’s hostile takeover would likely have been successful but for his untimely and highly suspicious death. He was found crumpled in a dumpster four days after he had been reported missing from the Post-It Opposition Headquarters. To this day, no charges have been filed.

The attempts to replace him at the Opposition HQ were stymied by infighting, and a new leader failed to emerge. The 3m execs reestablished control over the Post-Its and continued to profit handsomely from their labor until the early 90s tech boom provided better and less cluttered ways to keep valued notes. The Post-Its continued to sell, but any plans for world domination increasingly seemed hubristic. In an attempt to compete, the Post-Its evolved into smaller “flag” shapes as well as giving birth to a digital branch of the family. They survive today, but those in the know find extinction to be a likely scenario sometime in the near future.

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