December 14, 2001

Pen vs. Paper...Which will win?
In this corner wearing blue ink and expensive refills...the wireless pen! And in this corner weighing in at 12 ounces, 8 and one-half by 11 paper!

Why should people be excited about this? A wireless pen needs a network...tell me how that will work on an airplane. It's easy to lose and there's no system feedback to show what was stored on the network. Sure I can see what I wrote on paper, but I don't know what was captured electronically.

A good typist can type up to 90 words per minute. I can't read my own writing and write much slower than I type: about 35 wpm last time I checked which is nothing to write home about (pun intended).

IBM's "Smart paper" looks more promising than a really expensive pen with no on-board storage. It captures sketches and other scribblings so all those doodles created in droning lecture classes or committee meetings can some day be recognized for the works of art they really are. It also could more easily accomplish more functionality like cut and paste that become accelerators for application users. I could see this type of device being useful to designers developing paper prototypes and capturing diagrams and ideas from brainstorming meetings.

The tech industry is obviously streching out with research to try and find the next great user input technology. For example, much hope has also been put in speech recognition in the past, but the main competition, the keyboard, still offers a lot in terms of efficiency, feedback and simplicity. One pen or one voice just doesn't offer the output capacity of ten highly trained fingers...

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