Is the pen becoming obsolete?

Pen

I sit here typing on my computer wondering when the pen will become obsolete. Is the pen being phased out like the typewriter? Or a watch? With computers, smart phones, ipads, and Kindles, do you ever need a pen any more? What about paper? At least with paper you can type something on the computer and then print it. We send letters via e-mail and sign contracts electronically, so why would we still need to use a pen?

Dare I admit that I actually enjoy writing with a pen? Even worse, I like writing cursive with a pen. My boyfriend still has no idea how to read my cursive so all my journal entries are safe from him. He always thinks I am writing about him (as if I had the time). I would have the time, but I don’t have a watch. I love to write cursive in my college-ruled notebook with no computer or phone in sight. Is it possible that I am single-handedly keeping all the pen and paper companies in business? For some reason the physical experience of handwriting is different from typing on a computer. I know words still end up on the page, but there is a difference in how the brain works in each process and how the words come out. When I am typing I can write 90 words a minute. When I handwrite the words glide onto the paper much slower. Writing slow is not a bad thing when you want to think.

Maybe instead of wondering about pens going obsolete, I need to look in the mirror. Am I next? I may be going obsolete because I still cook in an oven (not a microwave) and I prefer french pressed or Turkish coffee instead of coffee from one of those fancy coffee machines. I am talking about those machines that can make coffee, fold my laundry and wash my car. I am not sure they do windows though. At least I am still good for something.

Another reason I became concerned with my obsolescence is that I recently discovered that my ability to concentrate on one task for long periods of time is disappearing. Hold on. I need to go put the laundry in the dryer. Sorry, back now. What was I saying? Oh, yes, I was talking about concentration. Sorry again, just one moment. I need to heat water for coffee now. Yes, back again. Where was I? Concentration is the problem. Actually the problem isn’t me. It is society’s inability to focus that is becoming the problem. Is a society with people who don’t have the ability to concentrate on tasks for long periods of time a good thing? Who will do research or design the next i-device? Who will be the heart surgeon? Can you tell I am worried about society going in a direction that is not necessarily good? I feel like life is moving too fast and there isn’t time to relax. No time to concentrate or focus. One might call it information overload. We get on-line and find ourselves bouncing around from e-mails to Facebook to an article about killer bees. How can we do this with such ease? Or do we? Is this hurting us in ways we don’t realize? Are we becoming dependent on information being thrown at us instead of sitting down and creating something or just plain thinking?

As I type this blog on my MacBook Air I wonder if I should grab the pen and paper sitting on the table next to me? Can I be more creative through the process of writing with a pen instead of using technology?  For now, the pen and paper industry is still safe because I love to sit outside or in a coffee shop and write with my Papermate Profile Elite pen on college ruled notebook paper. Maybe the ability to write cursive with a pen on my computer is just around the corner with one of these note taking applications. I can only hope that even if the pen goes obsolete, that thinking won’t.

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The Last Book on Earth

At my last book club meeting there was a lengthy discussion about how technology is changing the experience of reading. The idea of the ‘Last Book on Earth’ was discussed as we considered the number of people reading on a computer, an IPAD, or a Kindle. The idea of reading paper books is beginning to look antiquated. Much like carbon paper and mimeographs were made obsolete by the photocopier, soon books could be replaced and instead of being ‘reused’ could land in the recycling pile. Think about how the IPOD, which enabled the instant downloading of music via the internet, revolutionized how we experience music. Why should the replacement of books be any different?

For some reason during this discussion of the potential obsolescence of books, I had a flashback to historic films about the burning of books during WWII and wondered if the elimination of paper books was really a good idea. There is something about the idea of holding a book in your hand that seems more solid, more real. How would people feel if a Minister or Rabbi read from an IPAD instead of from an actual Bible or Torah? I am not even religious, but the picture just strikes me as odd.

As I thought more about the idea of burned books, I decided to look up the list of ‘banned books’. You might be surprised by the books that have been banned by governments at one time or another. Previously banned books include 1984, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and even, Dick and Jane? Strange how the previously banned books made it to the top of my classics reading list in high school.

For some reason, I have a fear about letting a single entity (like the government) control books that ‘they’ decide should be available for people to read. I mean the government does control all of the libraries, don’t they? With the number of large corporations competing for our books buying business, this isn’t likely to happen, but it is possible.

Then again, if people want to read books, they can find them, but what if there were not actual books? Will there be ‘bootleg’ copies on thumb drives? What if the government could erase all versions of a book like “The Diary of Anne Frank” (another previously banned book) removing all recorded history of it. I could envision a technological burning of books that could occur. It could be done quietly with no puff of smoke, just a quiet whirring of a hard-drive. Scary isn’t it?

So as some of us grasp tightly to our paper books, others clear out their bookshelves (I wonder if bookshelves are next to go obsolete since we won’t need to store books on them any more?). The world as we know it continues to change from the elimination of books and even bookshelves. However, if you could save one book to be your ‘Last Book on Earth’, what would it be?