My handwriting sucks, which is why I type.  But how did we come to write on ergonomic keyboards and Microsoft Word? Here’s how I wish it happened.

The Rock.

I wonder when the first human being realized that scratching a few marks on a rock would help him remember things.  Maybe he killed five wooly mammoths in a week, and he wanted to keep track so he could brag to his friends.  Maybe his girlfriend was upset that he forgot their anniversary—that first time they put on their fancy loincloths, hiked down to the river, roasted a few squirrels and watched the sunset—and he thought, maybe I should write that down for future reference. That’s what I like to think.

The Reed and Quill.

Millennia later, humans discovered that even the best of rocks produced only a very scraggly font.  I’m sure there were times when a scribe figured he could leave work early if he didn’t waste time sharpening his rock, and he ended up drawing some questionable characters.  When the first Egyptian pharaoh brought out his records and couldn’t decipher if a hieroglyph was a dog or a cat and thought, this is going to ruin my pet collection, maybe that was when he saw need for the quill.  Ink was discovered soon after, when the pharaoh’s warriors found that they could draw designs with the blood of their enemies.

Judging by the logo of just about every theater textbook company, the quill pen must have been Shakespeare’s idea.  Tired of the retro look of the reed pen, he stole a piece of plumage from her majesty’s prized peacock, poked a hole in the tip of the feather, dipped it in a pot of ink, and wrote “Let there be gall enough in thy ink; though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter.”

The Pencil.

When George Washington grew tired of finding ink stains in his glorious wigs, he commissioned a new writing tool.  America’s finest minds got together and brainstormed solutions.  One youngster yelled out, “Maybe we should dig!” and the rest agreed.  Upon the discovery of a nearby graphite deposit, the thinkers returned, faces stained with the stuff, and presented George with his first wood-cased pencil.  He smiled, and drew his face on a piece of green paper.

The Pen.

Some written works should be permanent, and no one knew this to be true more than Abe Lincoln.  He’d always known that his words were gold, but when he realized that future grade school students would be memorizing his words for their first history lesson, he knew that a pencil just wouldn’t cut it.  He stared at his quill pen and inkpot, willing them to coalesce in a stylus fit for a man of his worth.  His mental fortitude eventually overcame the laws of physics, and he held his first pen. Then he freed the slaves, aided by his miraculous new writing tool.

The Keyboard.

Inventors love to play poker, and the greatest game in recent memory was played by the creators of modern typing tools.  Gutenberg wagered a printing press, William Burt raised him a typewriter, and Steve Jobs went all in with the personal computer keyboard.  It was nothing short of epic.

At least that’s how I wish writing utensils came to be.

Advertisements