When an Apple executive announced that the company was introducing a stylus along with their new iPad Pro yesterday, the internet went bonkers with some hilarious jokes. Apparently, the crowd the event even laughed out loud at the idea.
After all, wasn’t this the idea which Steve Jobs hated? Isn’t this something which Microsoft and Samsung have been doing for years? Who wants an extra stylus to carry around when you have your fingers? Are we going back in time? Stupid, right?
I thought so too. My first reaction was thinking how Steve Jobs would have killed himself if he was alive to witness this.
But after I watched Apple Pencil’s introductory video again this morning, I changed my mind.
And no, it is not because I think it could revolutionize digital art – I don’t know if it will and I don’t care much for that.
It is something else which has been bothering me since I have started using the pen regularly for taking down notes. I suck at writing, and holding a pen is an odd experience. What struck me was that the Pencil could force me to actually write with my hands again. We have lost the art of handwriting thanks to smart-phones and laptops. And Apple Pencil could help us revive and conserve it.
Today, there is less handwriting and more clicking, swishing and typing. If we are lazy enough, there is Siri.
Bad handwriting is becoming increasingly common. I started my journalism career as a television reporter – which meant typing more on smart-phones and computers than taking down notes. There was also the camera to record interviews, so there never was a need to actually note something down. Even during press conferences, I typed away on my Blackberry so it can be emailed to the newsdesk as soon as possible. In a couple of years, it was easier for me to type on my Blackberry than write something down. I barely understood my own handwriting.
Just yesterday, my mother asked me to make a list of a few house-hold things she had sent me and keep it as a record. I typed it out on by phone and emailed it to her.
Kids these days write far less than we used to. Assignments and essays are typed and printed out. No more board games, only iPads and gaming consoles.
In the United States, several schools had decided to take out the requirement for instructions for cursive writing for students until legislation was passed in several states mandating it.
Many believe that the benefits of teaching cursive writing to our children go beyond just writing itself.
Suzanne Asherson, an American child therapist, wrote in The New York Times, “Putting pen to paper stimulates the brain like nothing else, even in this age of e-mails, texts and tweets. In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing.”
Later speaking to Mashable, she said, “In the short run, handwriting is poorer. In the long run, abstract thinking and higher-order thinking may not be as well developed.”
Now the stylus might not actually be putting the pen on paper, but it certainly gives the same experience.
Others believe that loss of handwriting might stifle our creativity.
Beyond that, it is simply that there is something inherently human about handwriting, and we must strive to preserve it.
Apple Pencil on the new iPad Pro could provide us the best of both the digital and analog worlds. And given how good the experience of using a Pencil on the iPad looks, we should give it a shot before dismissing it, at least for the sake of handwriting.