Retrieving Data on Thermal Paper
By Alice Syman in Saint Augustine, Florida, USA

I have some old files containing faxes on that old fax [thermal] paper that eventually fades. I heard that there was some type of light that would restore them, but couldn’t find out the name and probably couldn’t have afforded it anyway. I wondered, what is it that restores them — light or heat or a combination of both and possibly with something else.

I turned on a burner on my gas stove and began running the paper, print side down, back and forth over the flame. When I saw a strip of paper turning dark I looked and eureka! I could read almost every word of the print, typed and handwritten. A miracle. I was able to send an adopted person information about his adoption that he had lost long ago.

This has to be done slowly and carefully and the flame shouldn’t be too high because one can get a nasty burn. I placed the restored copies in clear sheets. How long they will be legible, I don’t know. But they’ll last at least until one can transcribe the information from them.

I sent this bit of info to many other researchers. To date none have said they knew about it already. I would be interested to know from your readers if I was just way behind the times on this valuable (to me) secret.

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 12 October 2005, Vol. 8, No. 41

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