Handwriting

I'm sad to see it go away

Handwriting is becoming a thing of the past.

For good reasons, too. The text is digitized as you type which means it can then easily be edited, copied, shared, versioned, and collaborated on. This reason alone is enough to ditch handwriting in favour of typing. Typing is faster, too, you can learn to type at very high speeds if you need to. You can learn to write at a decent speed, too, but as handwriting speed increases, the result becomes less and less legible. The typed text is perfectly legible. Even if you’re a beginner or not very good at typing, the result will be the same as that of a professional typist, it will simply take more time to get there. With handwriting, you need to practice a lot before your writing becomes legible. And no matter how good a calligraphist you are, a typed text is easier to read and much easier to quickly skim through than a handwritten text, even if the handwriting is your own. Why bother with handwriting at all?

Handwriting has its merits but those are few. It’s usually argued that you don’t need electricity or complicated devices to write; I don’t know about you but I find myself without a pen or a piece of paper much more often than without a functioning smartphone. A more obvious benefit of the handwriting is the hard copy (hard original, actually) that you get as the result. It can be used right away, without any additional devices. Of course, you could print out digitized text, too, but that requires an additional device (a printer) that may not be immediately available.

One thing that handwriting is actually good for is the identification of the writer; it’s not really possible to tell who typed a particular piece of text. A person’s handwriting is unique enough. For this very reason, we still have situations where the law requires us to use handwriting so that it can later be proved that the text was written by a particular person. This is likely to change in the future, though. People have unique handwritings because they practised handwriting, first at school, then throughout their lives, and with handwriting gradually disappearing from our lives there will be no developing of the unique handwriting styles.

Yet there’s another thing that’s good about handwriting, at least in my life. I use fountain pens, and writing with a fountain pen is an extremely satisfying process. I enjoy handwriting. Even at times when I need to write a long text that I don’t really want to write, handwriting it with a fountain pen makes the experience less unpleasant and much more enjoyable. Even routine handwriting is a form of art. It makes me sad to see handwriting go away, to have fewer opportunities to enjoy the process and make some art as a part of my daily routine.

Some decent OCR software would really help. I could enjoy my handwriting as I compose a text, then scan it with a smartphone and convert into an editable version. Less straightforward than typing, but I could do it to write for my blog, for example. The problem is, there’s no software I know of that would be at least half-good at handwriting recognition, it didn’t even get printed text recognition quite straight yet. There’s hope that modern machine learning techniques will get us closer, but they haven’t so far. I’m not really sure they will, at least not soon enough, since the more the handwriting gets replaced by the typing in our lives, the less incentive there is to develop good handwriting recognition software. Why bother, if everything is typed anyway?

I’ll miss my fountain pens. I already do. sad to see handwriting go away

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