Mourning the Death of Handwriting

Claire Suddath writes in Time about the effective death of handwriting. I have always been interested in the way that human beings capture their thoughts in writing. This has generally manifested itself in my love of typewriters and quality computer keyboards—I have a collection of both. There’s something about the translation from thought to fingers to keys to device to paper. The more archaic forms appeal to me most: manual typewriters. Your fingers move keys, which move levers, which move a striker into an ink ribbon leaving an imprint on paper. It’s direct and satisfying. Even today, in my high-tech office with all my computers and monitors, I have an old-style ‘clicky’ keyboard. I like it because it somewhat approximates the clack of a typewriter.

But before typewriters, thought were captured on paper using pen and ink. This has also had an appeal to me—I do love a good fountain pen—but my penmanship is not particularly good. Apparently this is common in my generation, where penmanship was not much of a concern in school and we were typing all our papers from middle school onward anyway. I’m not going to shed a tear for the bygone art of penmanship. Typewriters gained dominance because they were better, and then they lost their dominance to computers because computers are better. But I still found Suddath’s piece a fascinating read of how our education system has shifted focus over the years, and how the art of handwriting has changed with the times.

I, for one, will take the clickety-clack of a Smith-Corona typewriter over a pen and ink any day. And I’ll take my Unicomp Endurapro buckling-spring keyboard connected to my MacBook Pro over that old Smith-Corona too ;-).

Scott Bradford is a writer and technologist who has been putting his opinions online since 1995. He believes in three inviolable human rights: life, liberty, and property. He is a Catholic Christian who worships the trinitarian God described in the Nicene Creed. Scott is a husband, nerd, pet lover, and AMC/Jeep enthusiast with a B.S. degree in public administration from George Mason University.