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Post-it Notes a mini history

A laboratory accident that made its mark on the world Sticky little pieces of paper, coloured yellow, began to appear in offices around the world early in the 1980s. They were usually stuck to documents, and carried messages scribbled from one executive to another. Their great advantage was that they could easily be peeled off after being read, without leaving a mark. As the decade advanced the sticky slips, called Post-it Notes, spread to colleges and finally into homes. Students and researchers began using them to mark relevant pages in books; and working husbands and wives left hurried messages to each other stuck to the refrigerator.

Post-it Notes were spawned by an accidental discovery in a laboratory in St Paul, Minnesota, where research was being conducted into superglue in 1968. An adhesive was produced that was so lacking in sticking power that the company, 3M, dismissed it as useless. However, one of its employees, a chemist called Art Fry, was a choir singer and used the weak glue to make bookmarks for his hymn book. They could be removed when they were no longer needed, without damaging the page.

Fry tried to persuade the firm that they were throwing away an idea that could have worldwide uses.

But it was not until 1980 that 3M began selling pads of notepaper with a strip of adhesive along one edge for use in offices. As well as being removable they could be re-stuck somewhere else. Seen under a microscope, the sticky surface of a Post-it Note is covered with thousands of tiny bubbles of urea formaldehyde resin which contain adhesive. The bubbles break under finger pressure, but not all at once so the notes are reusable.

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