Saturday, January 07, 2012

Word Processing's Future?

This morning as I was tooling down the road thinking about this and that, with the wind in my hair and enjoying the extraordinary 60 degree January day, I pondered many questions that puzzle humanity.

Among those concerns was when I might upgrade my cell phone. I still use a Nokia from 2005 or so. It does little but work as a phone. No camera. No keyboard. No apps.

So I use my desktop, laptop, or Nook color for Internet access. A lot of people don't, anymore. They use a phone.

But I also use my computer for writing. I use it to make blog entries. Or write articles. Or short stories. Or my thesis. Or 12-page papers for class.

I can't see myself composing a 12-page paper on an IPhone, I don't care how many Gs it has. I need a decent-sized keyboard and some good white space when I am writing.

So many people won't need a desktop or a laptop for Internet access. But what will they use to write a letter, I wonder? Will things just continue to be short - 140 characters and you're done? Because 140 characters is about all I can handle on a little phone keyboard.

I am reminded of typewriters and how things have changed. When I started out working in an office, way back in 1981, I used an IBM Selectric typewriter. There were no computers.

I also had a typewriter at home. I bought one in 1985, a Brother. I still have it and I took this picture of it this morning:

I recently learned I can still buy ribbons for this,
and I started using it again. Can you believe that?
However, I could see that change was coming. I have mentioned before that I had a Commodore 64 (a very early personal computer). Once I realized I could type something on a screen, save it, print it out, and go back and edit it, I knew that typewriters would become a thing of the past.

So I am wondering now what writing will morph into as technology continues to push boundaries. Perhaps the iPad, with its built in touchscreen and keyboard there, is the answer. I look for documents to change - formatting will become less important, for instance, and short and sweet will be the norm. People like me, who tend to be, well, wordy, for lack of a better term, will be shuffled aside in favor of those who can write in 140 characters. Heck, we're already being shuffled aside for that.

Most people, of course, don't write, or at least, not a lot. However, I think people actually are writing much more - it's one reason why freelancing has become less lucrative. All of those Facebook status updates and tweets equal a lot of words (even if they are abbreviations or symbols). So really there is a lot of writing going on. It's just that it is short. And perhaps relatively meaningless, in the long run.

Is the day coming when paper won't matter at all? I certainly hope not. I am not keen on putting my private thoughts "in the cloud" where God-knows-who might stumble over it. When I think on all of the things I have hidden away in private little journals, pages stuffed in closets or in many cases actually shredded and burned, I am glad that it's not online. And now that Facebook is tracking you all the way back to the time of your inception with its new "timeline" feature, I'm really glad that I wasn't making status updates about things I did as a teenager. Can you imagine being 48 years old and having that stuff pop up as some random status reminder? Good grief.

That is way off topic. Sorry. Back to wondering about word processing.

Anyway, the future is already here. Check out this link I found to a gadget anticipated in 2020. It's worn on the wrist.

Instant keyboard.


  1. I loved typing on the IBM Selectric. It has such a nice touch to it and was quite speedy too! Don't think I'd get that new thing that straps to the wrist though. Looks too bulky.

  2. My aunt and uncle owned a typewriter store in Pasadena, CA. They still own the store, it just no longer sells typewriters! I got an electric typewriter for my high school graduation. When I discovered the backspace button on my computer I fell in love. I would never go back. Can't type worth a darn, but I can backspace like crazy.

    We also had a Commodore. It may still be in a box somewhere...

    I do like to print things out to edit them, though. I like to use a pencil and scribble ideas all over it.

  3. I have a couple of typewriters somewhere in the attic. I'd never go back to typing. I like the flat keys on my iMac's keyboard—I caress them rather than punch them—so much easier on the fingers and hands.

    I have several devices that I use regularly. My MacBook and iPad fulfill different functions, as well as my second generation iPod that lives in my purse. I use the Dropbox app if I want to share a document among the iMac, MacBook, and iPad. I don't use that app often, but I like having it there.

    My phone is a Tracfone that I rarely use—it's just for emergencies.

  4. I don't recall what brand typewriter my family had when I was in high school, but it was probably an IBM. My one sister and I both got Brother word processors for college. The advantage over the typewriter was that it was more portable, could save a certain number of files at one time, and allowed you to go back and edit before printing out a document, saving you tons in ink and paper. I never would have gotten through college without it!


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