The idea that handwriting is a communication tool that’s had its day is not new – its critics, however, are not united in agreeing the basis of their relief that it’s dying. Anne Trubek (whose work was the basis of the Times piece) believes that it is “inefficient”; that the time taken to jot something down is time we could be spending in thought. She also discusses how it is more democratic due to standardisation. People can’t make judgements about a correspondent’s social position or intelligence based purely on the look of a typed text (however an affection for Comic Sans might lead to some negative assumptions being made). Others have spent so much time in the keyboard age, that their writing skills have diminished and believe that this is not something to lament.
I recently bought a Smartpen and it satisfies both my love for new gadgets and my affection for handwriting. Of course I type, but I treasure the activity of writing as something that allows me to give greater consideration to my thoughts. Once I’ve written notes, I can upload them to the computer and transfer it to editable text. The Smartpen is much handier to carry around than my laptop so I can make notes on the fly with greater ease. It’s the best of both worlds.
For me, typing is far easier – and much quicker – than writing. This is not, however, the case for a lot of people, including – it seems to me from observation – young people who are so often touted as being in a post-handwriting generation. This is mostly because nobody has actually taught them to type, so their typing is inefficient and often full of errors. I don’t look back on my old manual typewriter lessons days with a great deal of nostalgia, however knowing how to touch type means that I can type at around 90 words a minute and do other things at the same time. Most people I’ve watched – in the workplace, at internet cafes, in libraries – are still pecking away at the keyboard, searching for the c. Often at home I’m amazed by the furious, lengthy tapping over at the other laptop in the house and wonder what opus is being created, only to be Skyped with a couple of words and a URL.
Handwriting in technology
Regardless of whether you think the kids of today need to practice their copperplate or not, it seems odd that the same paper sang the praises of the anticipated tablets, given that having recognisable handwriting would seem to be one of the prerequisites of getting the most out of this technology. I haven’t seen all that much about the new tablets, but – as usual – the press seems to be getting most excited about the anticipated offering from Apple.
For my money, this Microsoft offering seems to be the lustworthiest. Perhaps because it looks like an old fashioned journal? I want one…