My son was amused to learn that we used to have 4-ruled notebooks in school for handwriting practice. The very thought of focus on penmanship in school was strange to him. Growing up, writing and penmanship used to be a big part of everyone’s identity. The kind of pen you wrote with, how your handwriting looked, preference of cursive over disconnected letters – they all showed a bit about yourself and your personality.
As computers and mobile phones took over, the need to write has increasingly diminished. It is not unfathomable that in 20 years people would completely stop using a pen or writing with their hands.
As a high-tech entrepreneur and later a VC, I have enthusiastically embraced new technologies. I have gladly given up old modalities for technology inspired choices – reading, communication, entertainment and collaboration – I prefer the modern choices over the ones that I grew up with. But giving up on penmanship has been hard – there is an odd human nostalgia with pen-based writing that evokes a sentimental attachment to the past.
Because we used to write so much, the choice of pen was one of the first decisions we made for ourselves. I started off with vintage ink pens where the nib, the ink container and the cover all came apart and they had to be cleaned, refilled with ink and re-assembled regularly. Then came the delicious “Hero Pen” which had a squeeze-to-fill ink container and it wrote like knife through butter. Then came the Reynolds ball-point pen which avoided all the mess of filling up ink. But my favorite pen was the Pilot Hitec 0.5mm pen from Japan that Luxor brought to market in India. It combined the best of fountain ink pen and a ball-point pen. I started using them in 1990 and later tracked them down in US and still write with those pens.
I may see the complete extinction of penmanship during my lifetime. Of all the technology inspired changes, that would be the hardest one to cope with.