Friday, May 27, 2005

Full circle

In a previous post Is the writing on the wall? we asked if the personal computer represented the doom of handwriting and by logical progression, also the doom of reading handwriting and access to the written heritage.

However, there may be hope after all.

A Microsoft prototype Tablet PC

In the most recent edition of Managing Information and Documents (May 2005), Phil Jones looks at the potential of Microsoft's new Tablet PC software and hardware for enabling written input and therefore, from the archivist's point of view, the possible survival of traditional writing and reading skills. The hardware is ultra small and mobile.

The article explains the particular innovations of Table are seamless integration of the new interface with word processors to include doodling and creative sketching as well as ad hoc cursive note taking, using a form of MS Digital Ink technology called Input Writing Pad, which dispenses with the traditional QWERTY keypad. In-putted data can be retained as a bit-mapped image or be converted into fully searchable text.

A cuneiform tablet

Mr. Jones wittily concludes his article since the Mesopotamians first applied cuneiform script to wet clay tablets, the preferred working methods of knowledge workers has involved creating marks against flat surfaces. 3,000 years on, it seems, the surface has dried out, but the idea is as fresh as ever.

The new technology will become commonly available in 2007.

What is not certain is the extent to which office workers and leisure users will use Tablet as a mobile PC to be interfaced with traditional fixed workstations or as a full substitute for the PC.

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