It can seem that the invention of a new pen, which will vibrate if it senses that the writer is making a spelling mistake or his/her handwriting is messy, is a wasted effort. The brainchild of two German entrepreneurs, Lernstift, which means “learning pen” in German, is a regular pen with real ink, but it has a special motion sensor inside and a small battery-operated Linux computer with a WiFi chip, which allow the pen to recognise specific movements, letter shapes and a wide assortment of words. It vibrates, therefore, if the user is not careful with letters or writes inelegantly.
Arguably, it will be able to correct those whose dependence on spell checks and typing has played havoc with their spelling and handwriting. But, it is doubtful how many adults use a pen these days, even a fancy one. It is significant that the co-inventor of Lernstift, Falk Wolsky, had the idea for the pen while his 10-year-old son was doing his homework. He is also convinced that old-fashioned handwriting will never go away in view of the personal touch which it conveys. Besides, research has shown that students who write the letters of the alphabet and other symbols by hand can better identify them later than those who just study them in a vacuum, as it were, without writing them down.
Yet, it is a safe bet that the number of those who will use the quivering pen will be far smaller than those who will prefer a laptop, not only because of the latter’s many advantages, including “qwert” blindfold typing and sending emails, but also because writing materials like paper will become costly and unavailable over the decades as their use is discouraged for environmental reasons. Scientific advancement is almost always a one-way street. Detours may attract a few, but the juggernaut of “progress” will stick to the main road.