The End Of Handwriting?

I've written before on how I have pretty much stopped writing anything with pencil/pen and paper. These days the only things I use a pen for are to sign credit card receipts and the very occasional check. For all that, I assumed that I was an outlier, perhaps bordering on the eccentric. But maybe not; Anne Trubek has an interesting article over at Miller-McCune in which she argues that Handwriting Is History.

It turns out that people are very emotional about the subject. Some invest good handwriting with a moral dimension and equate the end of handwriting with the end times. An earlier article by Trubek along the same lines encountered vehement opposition and extremely hostile comments. Still, there's no denying that cursive handwriting is on the wane—I haven't used it since elementary school—and children today simply aren't learning it.

That's interesting but the larger question is whether even printing will eventually die out. On the one hand, as my own experience shows, it's perfectly possible to get by without pen and paper. Indeed, I believe you're better off that way. You can get your thoughts recorded much more quickly and keep them around in searchable form without the clutter of files and stacks of paper. Already, things like the Starbucks iPhone app are pointing the way to the end of credit card receipts and it's almost certain that the next generation of smart phones will have NFC capabilities that will hasten the demise of the credit card system as it exists today.

On the other hand, it's hard to imagine doing mathematics without pencil and paper. Perhaps that's just a failure of imagination on my part—look at Mathematica, after all. If I had to guess, I'd bet that handwriting is heading where physical books are: neither will die out completely but will survive in niches that the ordinary person will find quaintly charming. What do you think? Will handwriting die out or will it, like rock and roll, always be?

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