Phil: Tuesday’s post was written on a tablet computer. It’s a very nice tablet computer (Asus Memo Pad since you ask) but if this is the future of writing, I’m going to buy some new cartridges for my fountain pen.
Back in the “good old days”, the pen was the writers connection to their reader. That process of taking ideas from one brain and sending them to another involved making marks on a piece of paper so the nib was part of the interface. People became pen snobs. Only the best would do and of course some believed that their writing would somehow become better.
To be fair, this happens with all manual crafts involving tools with beginners believing that better tools rather than practise and effort make all the difference. A recent piece on the radio talked to knife makers who admitted that the most expensive kitchen knives costing thousands of pounds all went to people who just showed them off in the kitchen. Professional cooks used the mid-range models.
Anyway, once we stopped scribbling and started banging keys, typewriter envy became the thing. I’ve used a typewriter but fortunately by the time I was doing any serious writing, we had early word processors with their oh so important delete key to handle typos. If you want to get nerdy over the tools of the trader, head over here for a list of writers and their machines.
Which brings us up to date. Now, a tablet computer is a wonderful thing. When Apple introduced the first iPad, most people fell into two camps – the “what’s the point?” crowd mainly consisted of techies who couldn’t understand that for most people the web is something they consume rather than create on. Others declared the death of the conventional computer. As it happens, they aren’t so far off – computer sales have dipped as people realise that if all you do is post on Facebook and watch YouTube, you don’t need an office, you can do it on the sofa in front of the telly.
I’m somewhere in the middle. I got the tablet thing even though I am a bit techie. For me a computer is a tool for a job, not an end in itself and sometimes a simple web access is all you need. My tablet is invaluable to me as it removes the need to be at the PC for e-mail checking and allows me to be where I’m working.
I can type on it – the choice of machine came down to the best keyboard option (it has numbers as well as letter unlike an iPad where you have to switch between the two) but prodding an unresponsive bit of glass is slow and uncomfortable. In years to come, I suspect fingers will become shorter and knuckle joins impacted in those who prod the screen a lot. I’m pretty certain it’s not possible to write anything longer than a short story on one
Even my phone (HTC Desire Z, tech nerds) has a flip out keyboard. This makes it heavier than most and it’s showing its age but it won’t be replaced until it dies as you can’t find anything similar with a sensible screen and keys for fat fingers.
No, I need a keyboard. A proper rattly one. Not a soft touch or something that looks cool but has only tiny amounts of key movement. A proper workaday model that can stand up to my heavy keystrokes and the occasional thump when the words aren’t flowing. Something that has to have crud cleaned out from between the keys occasionally. Until we can beam our words directly from brain to page or even brain to reader brain, it will have to do.
(In case anyone is wondering, or just thinking I’ve gone mad, the title of this post comes from a running gag in the film The Great Race)