A perplexing and potentially very troublesome problem affecting Xerox scanners has been explained and fixed, thanks to some sleuthing by a savvy software engineer—and a bit of viral attention on the Internet.
D. Kriesel, a German Ph.D. student studying computational geometry, encountered a strange problem when scanning a blueprint on a common Xerox office scanner. The numbers denoting the square footage of rooms were totally wrong, and what's more, they changed when he scanned the blueprint again.
Intrigued, Kriesel tried scanning a table of costs and figures. Numbers changed again—but not wildly, just by a little bit: 54.60 became 54.80, for instance. And it wasn't just a blurry scan or a misplaced pixel—these were fully formed, unmistakable characters.
This was concerning. Kriesel wrote a blog post about it (after alerting Xerox), and before long the post was being linked to by others who had encountered or could reproduce the problem. Xerox, he said, thought at first that he was just playing a joke. And indeed, the whole situation has an air of satire—machines switching digits around just to vex their humans.