Friday, January 10, 2014

Stenos to Touchscreens

Recently, we were teasing my sister. She works in accounting and one day at her office, she mentioned Stenos and no one knew what she was talking about. She has many younger coworkers, it seems. But you remember Steno notebooks, right? Green paper, red stripe down the middle. We always had them around the house and that red line continually irked me. I’m going to assume that people who work with numbers know something about its use but for me, it only got in the way. We teased my sister because no one uses or, God forbid, says “Stenos” anymore, do they?
Today, someone on Twitter asked about touchscreen desktops and what the pros and cons were. I have a touchscreen, I said, but rarely use it. I forget that I can, and I don’t want fingerprints, I told her. But maybe, just maybe, it’s a bit of the Steno in me. New tricks, older-ish dog, etc.
We’re lucky, aren’t we, to live in a time with so many tools for writing? In the movie 12 Years a Slave, there’s a compelling sequence in which the main character, enslaved after living his entire life free, educated, and privileged, tries to fashion a writing utensil and ink from the crude supplies at hand. Although his main goal was to get a letter out to his family, I took it also as a metaphor for how every aspect of his past, cultured life had been taken away.
A while back, I wrote a piece for Author magazine, tracing my own experiences with technology since I began writing. I’m re-sharing it here (From Hand to Screen: Technology and the Writer), in case you missed it the first time around. And now I'm off to look for those Steno notebooks, stashed away somewhere and filled with poetry…
* For those curious about the origins of the Steno pad (and it has nothing to do with numbers), click here.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka