5.01.2010

Pens and the Age of Consumer Electronics

Now, the general consensus may be that the era of the handwritten, pen-and-paper affair is over. But you're reading a blog about fancy pens, and our job at Goldspot.com is to sell these archaic writing instruments, so you can assume that we would argue the opposite case. Not today.

It is over.

Everyone can shelf their Pelikans, Parkers and Mont Blancs. Steve Jobs is going to send everyone iPads for Christmas this year. Your pens will make a great addition to our museums to show how primitive our lives were before everything evaporated into a digital "cloud." Schools will replace lessons on handwriting with typing and computer literacy. We send our "signatures" through biometric scans of our thumbprint. Even grocery checklists are automated with bar code scanners and your Stop&Shop card.

The luminaries of silicon valley will tout, "We're saving thousands of acres of rainforest to re-build our thin ozone layer. And our wallets have never been thicker!" Actually, they won't say this in person, but in a text message that you receive as a Tweet. And America will say, "Well, it has to be true if @million_$dollar$_CEO said it." Meanwhile, my daughter is going to be more concerned if the boy she's dating changed his relationship status on Facebook from "single" to "in a relationship" than waiting for any love letters to come in the mail. And after she bugs me to check her Facebook one last time as she goes to bed, I'll be up writing a blog post about how people are losing touch with reality the more they "connect" online.

As I tap away at my keyboard, I think about all those nice pens that are now collecting dust in the closet. It was nice to look at people's handwriting and get a sense of their personality and the emotions they have in the moment they are putting the pen to paper. What's that word again, "SUBTLETY?" Emoticons can only express so much, even if you copy and paste the same one over and over again. It was far less frustrating to write notes in my notebook than it is to type notes in my tiny iPhone screen with the battery dying from looking up YouTube videos on my way to work. And gee, although the computer wizards claim they're saving the forests, they make up for it by creating massive amounts of environmentally unfriendly batteries and draining our already-tapped electrical power grid. I hear the chanting of "Drill, Baby, Drill" in the distance.

Then, there was the one day that an internet prankster in South Korea decided it would be LOLZ to wipe out every hard drive on every server, notebook, netbook, iPod, smartphone and personal computer (even your Nintendo DS isn't safe) in the entire world. Since we went paperless, everything was lost. To Doctors, patients have no more medical history. That amount you owe to the credit card company - gone. Your savings account, however, is also history. And the best thing about this phenomena is that no one can Tweet about it, no one can "like" it on Facebook and you will actually have to step out of your cave and strike up a conversation with your neighbor, "hey, my internet is out, do you have a phone book so I can call up the cable company to complain?"

This is what the digital "cloud" has to offer : a veiled, distant form of reality that is even more fragile and difficult to maintain than our real lives. One day, we can wake up, and our lives are hijacked from us by a hacker who managed to crack our foolproof password : "12345" (...and change the combination on my luggage!) What do we hope to pass down from generation to generation? When we click OK to accept the terms of a Last Will and Testament, does that mean we have to upkeep Uncle Larry's MySpace page for all eternity? What value does any of this have in the long run? If pen and paper dies, does our humanity go along with it?

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post!! really made me think.

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  2. Very thoughtful post, hopefully it makes people think a bit. Committing all of your information to the digital world only is clearly a bad idea, yet it seems to be the trend that individuals are pursuing, and government is advocating. Hopefully a happy medium is found somewhere.

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  3. OSG & Julie, thanks for your comments. I'm glad that you enjoyed it and that it gave some food for thought.

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  4. Quite thought provoking, and hopefully reading this article might encourage some to maintain their "analog" back ups and continue to use their museum-bound pens on a regular basis right along with their iPads.

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  5. Your point about the internet prankster is well made. If anybody is interested on they should listen to the Reith lecture on BBC Radio 4 here in the UK broadcast on the 8th June. Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal (lovely titles)made the following point:

    "Almost all innovations entail new risks;And there will be individual weirdoes with the mindset of those who now unleash computer viruses - the mindset of an arsonist. The global village will have its village idiot."

    A serious lecture that conveys the lighter message of pen and paper are the way forward, not relics of the past.

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  6. @B2-kun Thanks for the comment. Most of the technology that we produce as a society is meant to do things better, more efficiently. However, I'm not sold that the pen will go the way of the horse-and-buggy, with electronic media being the automobile of the 21st century. Although, I'm sure that people back in the early 1900's were saying the same thing about their horses...

    @Bob Is that broadcast available anywhere on the internet? I would definitely love to listen. There's always a chaotic element in the world that "throws in the monkey wrench," despite whatever you plan to circumvent the foreseeable issues. You give them more power, let's say an atomic bomb or the ability to cripple the internet, and the effect of one is rendered on the masses.

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  7. Your point about the internet prankster is well made. If anybody is interested on they should listen to the Reith lecture on BBC Radio 4 here in the UK broadcast on the 8th June. Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society and Astronomer Royal (lovely titles)made the following point:

    "Almost all innovations entail new risks;And there will be individual weirdoes with the mindset of those who now unleash computer viruses - the mindset of an arsonist. The global village will have its village idiot."

    A serious lecture that conveys the lighter message of pen and paper are the way forward, not relics of the past.

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  8. Well, here we are a year later . . . and pens are still around!

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