Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Is the writing on the wall?

Will the personal computer and laptop succeed where the typewriter failed? Will traditional handwriting skills and penmanship become obsolete as the result of adults, teachers, students and school pupils concentrating on keyboarding?

If so archivists will find that not only Latin documents but all handwriting have become illegible, with the obvious cultural consequences that society is finally cut off from its written heritage. Some software programmes already enable us to convert handwriting into typeface.

Here are some comments on the obsolescence of handwriting.

when handwriting becomes obsolete, it will ironically happen first among the technologically elite

From Handwriting in America: A Cultural History By Tamara Plakins Thornton, Yale University Press, 1996, reviewed by B.C. Brown Read more

Think about how much you rely on your handwriting versus your computer to get your job done as a student or an employee. How much do you feel computers will affect your future career? Do you think handwriting will become nearly obsolete like hieroglyphs?

From Remembering Cultural Differences, chapter 5 From Hieroglyphs and Handwriting to the Computer Age, published by Houghton Mifflin Read more

Prof. Tamara Plakins Thornton

Today many Americans lament the fact that handwriting skills seem obsolete, but cultural historian Tamara Plakins Thornton, associate professor of history, says the demand for old-fashioned penmanship training is merely nostalgic and represents the rejection of modernity itself. (Patricia Donovan, News Services Editor, writing in the University of Buffalo Reporter)

Read more

For a sequel on the subject of the survival of traditional handwriting skills and access to the written heritage, see our later blog Full circle

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