Saturday, October 2, 2010

The writing is on the…

Does anyone still write in the 21st century?
I don’t mean text messages or email, but real letters?
When last did you open your post-box and find an actual letter from a friend hidden amongst the bills and advertising flyers?
For me, this type of ‘find’ is the equivalent of finding a new dinosaur or other extinct species.
Opening the envelope, taking the letter out and actually sitting down to read it, even if you cannot always decipher the handwriting is all part of the excitement.
Personally, I print out personal emails from my pc when I want to read them as I enjoy the feel of paper in my hands.
And even though we do not write as much as we used to we still have a diversity of writing instruments today, should we wish to put pen to paper.
During the early days of the Space Race, urban legend has it that the Americans spent $10m on a gas-pressurized piston for a pen that forces the ink toward the point and allows the pen to write upside down or in zero gravity. The Russians countered that they had a similar device and it had only cost them 75c. When asked to reveal their invention, they did…it was a pencil!
Pencils on the moon and pens that can write under water! To see the way forward lets look into the past.
Our modern writing instrument, although seldom used, is a far cry from the quill pens that our forefathers used.
The humble ballpoint pen was patented in 1888,and although it worked well on leather, it did not work well as a writing instrument.
Like all inventions it was need not greed that was the reason for the ballpoint as we know it today. And for once we have to thank the media!
Say “Thank you” to a Hungarian newspaper editor, László Bíró. Filling fountain pens and tidying up smudged pages frustrated him, and to make matters worse, the nib of his fountain pen often tore the paper. He had noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge free, so he simply created a pen that used that type of ink! He decided to create a pen using the same type of ink.
Years before space travel RAF aircrews found these pens worked much better than fountain pens at high altitude.
The cheap disposable pens that were produced by the BIC Corporation with "Bic" as the tradename has passed into general use like 'Hoover' and ‘Fridge'.
But the question is not the instrument, but do people still write today?
Personally, I enjoy using a good fountain pen when I write, which is not often and usually limited to a notation in my diary.
These new modern marvels of technology have become collectors’ items.
But email and text messages are not really collectibles are they?
The feel of paper and the fact that someone has taken the trouble to actually write is what sticks in the mind.
While chatting to a friend recently he showed me a note that had been written to him and his family by a fellow traveler they had met on a recent holiday. Although it was only a few lines to give email and cell phone details, it was handwritten.”What did you do”? I asked ”Wrote one back” was the reply.
Although the electronic age has made correspondence easier and faster, don’t you still long for a handwritten letter?
I know I do.

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