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Offbeat -02August 2013

Even if I could run the risk of going back to using pens, keyboards are the way to go. Handwriting is too slow now. Handwriting doesn’t work with e-mail. I’ll have to stick with keyboards to keep up.

Typing used to be fun. I remember trying to get a shot at my mother’s typewriter, all those years back. The way the letters appeared on the piece of paper and the clack of the keys had a magical feel to it. It beat the effort of painstakingly shaping a letter hands down. The junior effort of making a letter with a pencil always came with my tongue stuck out the corner of my mouth, and the application of a rubber.
Typing is not so much fun nowadays that everything is done on the fly. My fingers move faster than my brain and my eyes don’t know where to look. Should it be the keyboard or the monitor. The inevitable result is red lines under the words on my word processor, and the need to go back and fix words again.
Part of the problem is that I use several keyboards: one at home and one at work. They are both shaped differently, and the keys have different feels to them.
The desktop keyboards have a way of giving out after two years, probably as a result of my hammer-like fingers. Whenever one of them is replaced it is a learning curve. There are different versions of ‘ergonomic’, so whenever I get a new keyboard my fingers have to learn the the new positions of the letters.
My old mobile is yet another complication. The tiny keys challenge me. My fingers feel like a bunch of unwieldy bananas as I try to get the right letters. The stupid little buttons for caps and alternative characters plague me, slow me down even more.
The new computer touch screens look like yet another challenge. I can’t, for the life of me, see myself pointing at an upright screen. As far as tablets go, I like the sense of feeling a key go down under my fingers. I get the creeps when I have to tap on glass. My fingers are heavy enough to make me fear breakage.
Fingers shouldn’t have to learn that much. They have enough to do without having to relearn four or five different keyboard configurations every couple of years. My spellcheckers correct or highlight the errors, but the irritation remains. Fcuk!
I think back to the exercise of writing with a fountain pen. Even ballpoints can be blotchy and prone to leaks. They had a way of committing suicide in my top pocket, exploding in gushes of gaudy blue ink that ruined shirts, particularly in the high heat of summer.
Even if I could run the risk of going back to using pens, keyboards are the way to go. Handwriting is too slow now. Handwriting doesn’t work with e-mail. I’ll have to stick with keyboards to keep up.
Handwriting is on its way out. Even the poor now have growing access to some form of keyboard on mobile phones. Short of a nuclear apocalypse that wipes out all forms of electronics with electro-magnetic pulses, pens and pencils are endangered species.
There’s a sense of sadness to the idea. The one stand-out with handwriting was the need to think. Words were formed slower, and sentences were thought about. With a keyboard, the sentences move quickly, and there isn’t much thought. The delete button leaves no memory of a thought that would have been scratched out on a piece of paper, and there is no way to scratch through the rubbish anymore, to find that one piece of paper that you inadvertently chucked away.
How often have you remembered that you had an idea, but you can’t remember what it was and, now that you need it, you regret deleting it? Sometimes, scratching through the rubbish bins was a form of salvation.
As for keyboards, hopefully one day they will be standardised, and my fingers will know where to go. Slender hope on that though. Keyboard makers have to keep on finding new and interesting ways to keep their keyboards different from their competitors.
Apparently, the next thing will be virtual keyboards that appear holographically. The next form of input will have us clawing at the air like demented villains.
If I have grandchildren, I wonder how they will view pen and paper? Will they think it archaic and worthless. I hope future generations will have a glimmer of what they lost in handwriting.

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