No More Pencil Sharpeners: Writing Fragmentation in the Digital Age

Growing up the pencil was always used for math and the pen for just about everything else.  The reasoning was simple:  you were more likely to make a mistake.  Sometimes we took tests without calculators, completely smearing the scrap paper. 

Pencils also required sharpening.  Students would go up to the front of the class and shave their pencil as if they were giving it a haircut.  Some kids made the end tips knife sharp, others left the pencil head a bit rounder.  

The pen relieved much of the pain that came from scrawling with pencil.  The pen’s tip was smoother and made writing rhythmic.  When we ran out of ink, we simply found a replacement pen.  

Then came the computer.  Why go through the trouble of writing something down that will need to be reproduced on the computer?  Nevertheless, students still vacillated between handwriting and typing.  Some people thought better with pen and paper.  

But then came the touch screen mobile and tablet, obviating the need for penmanship.  Instant mobile communications replaced handwriting and grammar.  “You’re” is now “ur” and it’s always lowercase, even at the beginning of a sentence.  

Handwriting will go extinct in about a decade unless the pen goes digital.  Word on the street is that Apple is creating a stylus, recreating the handwriting experience on a digital screen. 

Taking notes with existing stylus models is currently a challenge.  Our digital writing bleeds because can’t keep our wrist and pen on the page at the same time.  

From pencil, pen, Internet-less keyboard, to the hyper connected keyboard of mobile, to the potential reemergence of utensil writing with the digital stylus, writing has been fragmented.  And don’t think that’s the end of it.  With Siri, you may not have to write anything at all.  #dictation

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.