The stampede away from paper

My whole life, I've been particularly keen on technology, having been a young boy during the 1970's and strongly influenced by the massive U.S. space program at the time. I started programming computers at a young age for the time, and so much of what I did was digital after that. I did continue to draw some, and I used pencil and paper a lot through college because students didn't have laptops. The programming and engineering jobs I had didn't necessitate handwriting very much, and after all, ever since the PDA we were supposed to not need paper anymore.

I still felt a good deal of friction in using the new tools for some reason, which I figured was just me being older. After thinking about it quite a lot, it seems that my problem was that I have several nice apps for capturing text but many times I need to jot down more than that. I had no good way to capture a doodle or sketch or complex idea. Text capture works great for blog posts but not so great for a shelf design or idea for a logo.

It's okay to still use the old things sometimes

Once I allowed my tech self to carry a pocket notebook, I felt better since I had a place to put these things. Sure, this might seem like a throwback move to avoid adopting digital tools like clinging to a keyboard in a touchscreen age, but until I find a suitable sketching app, this lets me get on with things. I know there are some amazing drawing apps, but I'm looking for something that is just for convernient initial capture. This tends to rule out many drawing apps that only really work on a larger tablet surface. I find using a pocket size notebook for initial capture and then capturing that into something like Evernote works pretty well.

The cool kids versus the old men

As we create more digital tools, some people look at them as completely replacing prior analog tools. Other people think the new tools are completely worthless and stick with the old tools. In most cases there is a transition time where it is impractical to completely abandon the old tools right away. This is often simply because the new tech is immature and needs time. Of course, it is during this time that it is full of promise and not much product that the older set look at it and dismiss it as no good, and when asked years later why they haven't adopted it, they say they looked at it years ago and concluded it was worthless.

Complete replacement

In some cases, like with audio CDs, the new thing completely (or nearly so) replaces the prior tech because it is better and no more complicated to use and it replaces or obsoletes all the functions of the prior thing. This is important because, when the new thing doesn't replace or obsolete all the functions of the prior thing, the old thing will still have some use. Vinyl LPs were still being used in small numbers because the CD and CD player had not replaced the beat-matching and things that DJs were doing with LPs. The scratching and things they were doing would not be possible with the CD and had to wait for digital music files and software to be able to replace these functions. However, that doesn't mean that CD and digital music files were worthless until they finally replaced every last function of vinyl.


Before tablet computers, desktops and laptops did "everything" one might do with a computer, so tablets were viewed as redundant and never able to replace a laptop. What many weren't getting is that isn't the point of a tablet. It can't do all of the things a laptop can do, but it makes it easy to do some of those things in a more relaxed way. We have more choice about what to use for a given task.

Sure, a desktop or laptop computer can let you develop a website and manage your to do list, but the smartphone let us have our to do list in our hand wherever we might be and quickly. It is people who grew up in a world without these choices that say things like "why don't you just call him?" when you are texting your friend. They don't understand that all your tapping is actually being more considerate to your friend in many cases than ringing his phone in the middle of his meeting. They never had this option, so they don't consider it.

Grumpy old men

People who say disparaging things about smartphones are likely trying to avoid using them because they don't like the idea of having to learn this or any new tech, so they look for excuses to not learn it. The easiest is to find a reason to not need it ("I don't need all that fancy stuff") or to declare the new way (like texting) to be "no good", "not professional" or "rude". Some of this attitude is justified when companies use the new choices that tech has created to reduce costs in a way that is not customer friendly like only having email or web support and no people you can talk to.

Some is just generational disconnect like getting annoyed that they want to text you that your prescription is ready rather than calling "like they used to". The reason for the annoyance being that they likely don't have a texting plan, don't know how to use texting or just find it hard to read the text on their phone screen.

Leaving too much behind

The new cool things are cool, but our enthusiasm for their promise can cause us to rage about the parts of the old things that we hated, forgetting about the good things. For others, they are skeptical of the new things and dig in defending certain aspects of the old things, some valid and some silly.

Putting pen to paper again

I grew up as a left-hander before they really had very many left-handed things, so I learned to use many things like scissors in my right hand or both hands. I also used a lot of right-handed desks, which may explain the hook. I like to think it caused me to look at things in life from more than one perspective.

I'm an engineer and computer scientist, not a writer or artist, although I do love design and trying my hand at design. Recently, I've been trying to do more design and so started to revisit the tools. I used to draw a lot more, mostly cars, but I never pursued it enough. I dug out my old drafting tools, and even though I never did much with them outside of school, I felt their draw.

Then I remembered for a long time I had been wanting to find a pen for daily use that wasn't so difficult to write with. I'd come close with the Pilot G-2 which weren't too bad much of the time, but being left-handed, the long dry time was not great, they would often skip, leak and were a bit sloppy. Another thing I enjoy a lot is podcasts, and I must have been listening to one of Myke Hurley's old 70 Decibels network shows an heard a cross-promotion of his Pen Addict podcast with Brad Dowdy that did the Pen Addict blog. Suddenly, I'm binge-listening and immersed in a new world. I'm nowhere near fountain pens yet. I'm probably too lazy for those; heck, I find a capped pen almost too much trouble.

Soon, I was seeking better paper and on to my first Field Notes notebooks. This uncovered a slight notebook addiction, and soon I had more notebooks than I could use. Yes, the pens were piling up as well. This is all normal for a geek when they wade into something new; they are all over the space seeking the optimal. But I wasn't just obsessing about pens. It was a resurfacing of some old interests never thoroughly explored.