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May 2012: Handwriting’s Safe, for Now

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • “So what,” said Ginny Carpenter, the U.S. vice president for marketing at Anoto — not to be confused with Onoto, the pen marque — “do you think of the future of handwriting?” We were continuing a conversation we’d started a year ago, documented in this space. She and a coworker had just completed a podcast conversation with me revolving around electronic health records for the site at which I’m a reporter.

“Handwriting’s dead,” I said. Extra Fine Points

“Not a fair question,” I said, considering my personal life includes a love of vintage fountain pens and a father-in-law who shares that hobby. Indeed, he has taken it to further to the nth degree, making fountain pens his livelihood and doing nutty things like teaching my son Patrick — his grandson — as much Palmer Method cursive as the kid can stand.

Patrick at age 4

Patrick at age 4, with a Conway Stewart Churchill. He’s 8 now.

Carpenter believes that the pen will survive the iPad generation for several reasons:

“Sure,” I said, “you might very well be right.” I hope so. As she enumerated her arguments, these counterarguments popped into my mind just as quickly:


“Handwriting’s dead,” I said.

“But you…look at what you did while we were recording our podcast,” Carpenter said, pointing at my notes, where I’d scribbled a few lines to keep my thoughts straight.

“Yeah, but look at me. I’ve got gray in my beard. I’m old. And I’m a fountain pen collector. A lost cause.”

At which, she laughed.

Maybe I’m a pessimist, or perhaps trying to hold on to my reporter’s objectivity in a devil’s-advocate sort of fashion. After all, when conversing with a marketing expert, if you’re a reporter it’s best to maintain an almost-unhealthy skepticism for the benefit of one’s readers. Can’t drink the Kool-Aid and give up your street cred, no?

Of course, deep down in my subjective pen-collector soul, I hope she’s right. But I fear, to paraphrase the inimitable Bones McCoy, “Handwriting’s dead, Jim.

cover Further Reading: Pen, Ink, & Evidence: A Study of Writing and Writing Materials for the Penman, Collector, and Document Detective, by Joe Nickell
Anoto may be the future of pens, but how about the past? Want to know what the Romans wrote with? How to make oak gall ink? How pens work? These subjects and many, many more are covered in Joe Nickell’s fascinating tome. It’s a worthwhile addition to any pen aficionado’s library.

Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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