Friday, September 27, 2002

On the Written, or Scribbled, Word

Will the near-ubiquitous computer keyboard eventually produce a generation who only know how to type but cannot write with a pen or pencil? The problem doesn't seem to have developed as of yet. Indeed, the current issue on computers and handwriting would appear to lie in the opposite direction--how to teach computers to successfully recognize handwriting. In their efforts to produce smaller and lighter computing devices, computer makers some years back developed small touch-sensitive screens where users drew letters or wrote longhand instead of typing on tiny keyboards. Interpreting these scrawls has proved annoying elusive, but several companies continue to try. The issue brings to mind questions on several levels--how far do you adapt to the individual versus requiring the adoption of a "standard" set of squiggles, as in the Graffiti language used on most PDAs, and would we get more mileage out of simply storing images of handwritten notes instead of expending processor time converting them to computer readable text? On a completely different level, might this result in a loss of diversity in handwriting styles over time? Do we mind that?
Read the NY Times article.

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