Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Handwriting's last stand

It was another media conference. They’re not shy to have them these days. As I pulled out my iPad and began tapping away at my notes, it struck me that this, finally might be the death of handwriting.
            The process began in Miss Kambitzis’ typing class, when I’d just arrived at university. We were told assignments could be handwritten, or typed. Your choice. The novelty of typing meant the written option was soon abandoned.
            But notes during lectures were still taken by hand.  And letters to your loved ones. Typing was just a bit formal a format to declare your affection for a lovely lady you may have met over cooldrinks at the varsity cafeteria. And those love letters could become works of art. They’d include photographs, pressed flowers, some would be collages of images you’d photostatted at Postnet and then painstakingly glued together with Pritt. Receiving them, you’d savour every last word, then reverentially put everything back into the envelope and stash it in your special box of keepsakes.
            When I started as a sub-editor at The Herald, a massive desktop computer loomed in the corner near the gentleman who made the tea. “It’s the Mac,” I was told in awed tones. “That’s how we get the email!”
            Gradually email became less mysterious and more mundane. Pretty soon I was mailing people from a laptop of my own. Stories were typed, then emailed to my clients as I styled myself a swashbuckling freelance journalist.
            Notes, at least, were still scrawled in an improvised shorthand, before being deciphered later for typing.
            The first cellphones made their appearance in the late Nineties. Initially this meant more phone calls, but the instrument soon became more of a text device. The first love messages found their way into SMS format…
             Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, email became an accepted medium for romantic intercourse, although in parallel with handwritten letters.
            I got onto MySpace in 2006, and suddenly typing overtook speaking as the main way to have a chat.
            Facebook soon replaced MySpace and boom, all social and commercial interaction was text-based.
            Writing began to fall out of favour. The only handwritten communication might be a note, a Post-it… The guys in our digital department were heard to ask every now and then, “Who’s got the office pen?”
            And then came the devices. I found myself writing a column on my phone the one day, and soon afterwards, I tapped in a few notes during a meeting. I picked up an iPad, which had slightly bigger keys,
            Where previously I was always losing pens, now I always had too many, a dozen of them nestled in my pencil case, these quaint, ink-filled styluses I barely used. Perhaps for interviews.
            As I type this, the last thing I wrote down on a piece of paper was… let me see… Some notes from a meeting. Here it is here. On the back of a printed status report I have drawn what appears to be a large bamboo stalk with curly bits on the side. And these little paisley things.
            I’ve been doodling. You can’t beat pens for doodling.

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