Dennis Baron’s “From Pencils to Pixels” was a fascinating read detailing how different literacy technologies like the act of writing itself, the simple number two pencil and today’s modern day computer were all initially met with mixed feelings and trepidation by the general public. In the essay, he goes on to explain how these new technologies first needed to replicate the more familiar and natural writing tools that were widely used at that particular moment. With the pencil and computer, this meant an update to their user interfaces; the graphite mixture in the pencil was perfected and implanted in a wooden casing while computer word processing started to take off once developers created user-friendly “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) applications (and computers became more economically friendly).
This article was published in 2000, at a time when personal computers were becoming staples of the common American household and the World Wide Web was in the midst of the Dot-Com Bubble. Since that time, there have been huge advances and innovation in literacy technologies that make communication easier than ever. What immediately comes to mind is text messaging (first T9, now QWERTY keyboards), smartphones (which started with the Sidekick and Blackberries, and eventually led to iOS and Android devices) and new applications that facilitate communicating like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Technology makes everything faster and more uncertain; like the pencil, telegraph and now the household telephone – what is here today may be old news tomorrow, quickly fading into obscurity. Some tech critics are even saying that our coveted iPhone could be next to go.