Are Pen and Paper Obsolete?

I recently posted a response to this week’s Trifextra, ‘Personification’. Here is is. One of the comments somebody gave me read as.

Cobbie’s World Says

“I am finding that the more I am using the notepad on my iPad, the more comfortable I am getting with releasing myself from pen and paper. I still like paper for helping me organize my thoughts for a story, etc., but, I am getting better at working more exclusively on the iPad. This transition is happening in schools, too. Where I teach, more and more kids are doing their reading, writing and research on tablets of one sort or another. Paper and pen are becoming obsolete technologies.
Thanks for a thought-provoking post.”

I responded by saying.

Tom Martin Says

“Let’s take a think on this. I accept that iPads and digital technologies have their place, and tablets are good in education (I don’t have one, but I’m looking into it for Uni). However, pen and paper are far from obsolete. We have written texts dating from around the birth of christ on parchment and scroll tomes – which we can read. Now, consider data storage. It is very limited. Can you still read information from the floppy disk? The SuperDisk or MiniDisk? CD-ROM? What about your standard memory card? No, no and no. Word is that CDs will be next to go; and even now it’s unlikely you can access your CD if it dates from before 2005. So if technology lasts for ten/twenty years, and pen and ink over two millennia; which is obsolete?

Thanks for a thought-provoking comment. I may write a post on it.”

I refrained from saying ‘consider your argument destroyed’, but I really wanted to. To a friend, I would have, but to somebody I don’t know it’s customary to be more civil, I think. I’m going to look at electronic versus physical, and see if the notebook can match up to the benefits of tablets and smartphones.

Let’s look at some of the pro’s of electronic notetaking:
1. Portability
2. Cloud Base
3. Easy Sharing
4. MultiFunctional

1. Portability. Most electronic devices are, to an extent, portable. The focus of her comment is the iPad. It’s not really that portable is it? If you’re going to take an iPad out with you, you’re going to need a bag. It isn’t a pocket device; not even the mini iPad. If you’re going to use a device for working on, I think the iPad Mini is the smallest you can realistically go. Whilst smartphones can ‘do’ most of the same stuff, they just aren’t built for it. I have the pages app on my iPhone, but it rarely gets used, to be honest. I mostly use it as an interface for emails – if I get an email I can edit it there and then, without the aid of a computer. However, it’s just too small to write an essay or draft a novel. I guess an iPad with a keyboard accessory would work well, but you’re already adding things to your iPad, decreasing the portability of it. I don’t think anybody can type straight onto the screen comfortable for any length of time. Take a notebook then. My little A6 Rhodia goes everywhere with me, it fits in my jacket pocket and is thus far more portable than an iPad. I guess you can say I need a pen too, but that fits right into the same pocket.

2. Cloud Base. Nowadays, we love to store our data in the cloud. Non-physically that is, of course. I’ll admit it’s great to be able to have your work available to you everywhere. If you’re working on the computer and have to leave to catch a train, take your iPad along and you can finish it up ready for presentation when you get to work. It’s very useful. Until it goes wrong. When you get on the train and your iPad throws up an error code; your PowerPoint is going to go a few slides short – which is a real pain. We rely on these things, which makes it all the worse when they don’t work. Trust me, my notebook has never failed to access my notes. Cloud is all very well, but it’ll never beat a hard copy for infallibility.


3. Easy Sharing. This sort of goes along with the cloud. Barring any issues, you could start, finish and send an essay to a tutor all on the iPad. Email is slightly less testy than the cloud, but I still hear my peers giving lots of excuses about how they couldn’t attach the file, it wouldn’t send or plain “I sent it, didnt you get it?” Whether that’s email faults or they didn’t do the work, I’ll leave to your discretion. If I work on a piece of paper, I have to either hand the physical copy to my tutor or scan and email – which requires technological assistance. Either way, I guess this one goes to the techno-pro’s. I love emails too, they’re very very useful.

4. Multifunctional. An iPad is not just a work device. Or a music player. Or indeed an Internet browser. It can do all of these things, which is both a blessing and a curse. I know people that work on iPads invariably get distracted, start listening to music or have a little go at Temple Run 2. However it’s pretty clear that the multi-purpose-ness of it is a benefit. You can research and complete an essay all on your iPad, collect the photos you need, email your tutor for advice then send it off all there. My notebook plays games too, though! You’ve got hangman, noughts and crosses, squares and loads of other games! I jest, though. Whilst the notebook eliminates the distraction elements, it also removes the most of the productive elements. I guess this one goes to the iPad.

Okay then. Lets take a little look at the negatives of a tablet for working on. A few of them dipped in above, but these are some big flaws.

1. Battery
2. Data Loss
3. Cost

1. Battery. Le’s be honest, the battery life for Apple’s devices is awful. Of course, we aren’t looking specifically at Apple, but almost all tablets aren’t great and the iPad dominates the market anyway. For really extended working, it’s just not up to it like some netbook laptops are. If you’re writing and researching, you’re going to have WiFi (or 3G) on, brightness quite high and your tablet will be chomping away at its’ battery constraints. Now, there’s a clear and easy fix; bring your charger with you! But then, it doesn’t make for a really portable device if you have to be within half a metre of a plug now is it? Pen and paper don’t have batteries, all they have is ink constraint (and sheets of paper, but paper is cheap. Ink, too.). Your notebook won’t give up on you halfway through that life-changing job interview speech plan. The tablet might. Shucks, really.

2. Data Loss. I think all of us have lost data at some point. Technology is a fickle thing, and has a way for destroying the data we need the most. Not the cat photos of course, that lovely juicy 5,000 word piece that has to be in tomorrow. Is your tutor going to believe you legitimately lost it? Not a chance. The techno-world have just accepted that it’s never infallible, and there’s always that little risk that something will go corrupt, or not save properly. Pen and paper won’t delete your work. You might drop it in a puddle, but if you’re using Noodler’s Bulletproof Ink, it won’t be a problem. If you drop your iPad in a puddle, that will be a problem.

3. Cost. Oh dear. I may seem very anti-iPad, but I’m looking into buying myself an iPad Mini. The thing that’s holding me back? The cost. Apple’s devices are very good quality, but they do charge a ridiculous premium price-tag. Can I justify that? I don’t know. The Nexus 7 seems a less-pricey alternative to me! Pen and paper need not be costly at all. I say need not – I have £200s worth of Fountain Pens to my name, but that’s my choice (there’s a reason I can’t afford an iPad!). You can use cheapandnasty ballpoints given away for free and get away with cheapandnasty Morrison’s Value Range paper, but I’m sure the most of us can afford a little luxury, can’t we? Maybe. If you can afford a tablet, you can afford decent stationary.

Well, this has turned into a one-and-a-half thousand word essay on whether pen and paper is obsolete, and general slating of the iPad. What’s better then, pen and paper or the iPad. I’m going to say neither really. I’d much rather work with the infallible physical paper, but others prefer the flexibility of a tablet. Tablets can simply do such much more, but we always come back to pen and paper really. We still sign away our lives with pen and ink, not the click of a button (in most cases). Tablets are great, paper is great. Choose what works for you.

I’d love to hear what you think. Comment below, or if you really feel strongly like I did, take a post and ping it back to me by pasting the URL for this post into yours!


Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) Book Review

And now for the third and final book of The Hunger Games trilogy; it’s Mockingjay! I’m sure you remember I wasn’t enamoured (I love that word) with Catching Fire. Have no fear though, I have no such thoughts for Mockingjay.

At the end of Catching Fire, the surviving Tributes have escaped from the Hunger Games – them being Katniss and a few others; but no Peeta. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. The survivors are taken to District 13, where the rebellion is being headed. Katniss pledges to aid the Rebellion Council, but on her own conditions – that all participants of the Quarter Quell are granted immunity (including Peeta) and that she reserves the right to kill gamesmaker President Snow. The Council keep Katniss away from the action however, and focus on making her a propaganda front for the rebellion. Meanwhile, the Capitol are also pulling strings with videos of the mentally ill Peeta. Eventually, the Council rescue Peeta as he is affecting Katniss, but he has been brainwashed into thinking she is the enemy. After much therapy he begins to improve, and the Council begin planning the final strike on the Captiol.

This is a busy book, and moves with much more of a pace than the first two – and it works brilliantly. There’s always a sense of unease and an air of disaster. Katniss walks around like an emotional timebomb, and it’s all tense an highly strung. I think Collins did well by not immediately turning Katniss into a warrior, as the fact that she is used as a tool gives hints at how politicians will always use people to their advantage. A lot of people, or so I am lead to believe, would have preferred Peeta rescued along with Katniss, and had them lead the rebellion together. I don’t think that would have worked. The Capitol is such a powerful oppressor, open warfare would be ridiculous and in wars such as the civil strife of the Hunger Games, it is not heroics that are looked for but victory. To turn the duo into knights in shining armour would not have worked despite how splendid they may have been. In a tale such as this, there has to be the element of heartbreak, and that not everything can turn out right. That, I think, is why Prim had to die. Yes – little duck-tail Prim dies on the front lines. Also, this gives way to the magnificent ending that Collins delivers with the book, as it wouldn’t have worked otherwise. I think Collins wanted it all along to have the ending a little different, and little Prim was the sacrifice that made it possible. This will sound sick, but I’m glad Prim died as it much improves the quality of the book.
Continue reading


Hello all, just a quick note to say that I’ve now got a linked Twitter account! All posts will be pushed to Twitter from both of my blogs, and the name is @tomtheblogger . You can tweet me a comment, retweet any posts you want to share with friends and encourage people to follow me on Twitter, which would be awesome!

Here’s my twitter feed (it’s quite boring right now).

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword – Or is it?

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

This is a phrase – or quote – we hear often nowadays. It comes from the play Richelieu, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton written in 1839, and has been used by many people since, politicians not least. There are lots of quotes that have sprung from this original phrase. Here are a few of them:

“With a pen in my hand I have successfully stormed bulwarks from which others armed with sword and excommunication have been repulsed.” Georg Lichtenberg

“The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.” Terry Pratchett

“The strokes of the pen need deliberation as much as the sword needs swiftness.” Julia Howe Continue reading

Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) Book Review

As promised, here is the next instalment in my Hunger Games series review. After my enthusiasm on the first book, the review you will find post-halt may surprise you somewhat. Well, I hope so – it’s better reading!

In Catching Fire, it’s time for the Third Quarter Quell! That is of course the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games, and that means trouble. Trouble cooked up by John SNow, President of the Games. Katniss and Peeta really didn’t do him a favour in breaking the rules and denying them a single victor, and he is angry. He admits this to her in conversation. It’s no surprise when, in honour of the 75th Games, twenty-four tributes will have the honour of returning to the arena. Yes, that means it’s round two for Katniss and Peeta. There is, however, a stirring. Two escaped rebels from District 8 are saying that District 13 still exists. District 13 was not wholly destroyed during the Uprising – its inhabitants have moved underground. Rebellion is brewing, and yet again, Katniss has no intention of following the rules.
Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: Extended Movies

Just a quickie for today, but I’ll have a review for the sequel to The Hunger Games over the next few days. If you’ve watched the Lord of the Rings movies, you’ve probably seen that they are indeed very good films. Quality screen-time, one might say. Now, if you haven’t treated yourself to the Extended Editions box-set, consider yourself diminished, for you have not seen the full glory of that which is the Extended Editions!

Each of the films is about four hours long. Some people might say ‘I can’t sit a movie for that long!’ Trust me; you can. These films will suck even those who’ve watched the standard movies and know all of the lines (guilty, I can sit and recite the standard films along to the television, which my family hate), and spit you out twelve hours later wanting to start all over again! There is a lot – a lot – more content, many new scenes and many revised scenes.

Please, please buy yourself the Extended Edition set. I mustadmit I’m watching it right now; I just got to one of my favourite bits of dialogue.

“Frodo Baggins is my name, and this is Samwise Gamgee.”
“Your bodyguard?”
“His gardener.”

Can anyone place those lines?