Technology Explained

Why Your Finger Will Never Replace a Pen: Refuting Satya Nadella

Guy McDowell 02-03-2015

You might think that cursive writing is a waste of time Cursive Writing Is Obsolete; Schools Should Teach Programming Instead [Opinion] Cursive writing is an anachronism. Spending any classroom time on it is a waste because as a day-to-day skill, it is not at all practical in the modern, connected world. Read More , and if you do, you’d be in good company. Satya Nadella Nadella Gates, Android Winning, Facebook Paper, Bieber Begone [Tech News Digest] Incomings and outgoings at Microsoft, Android wins big in smartphones, Facebook introduces Paper, Box launches Box Notes, the Windows desktop could be back by default, and the Internet calls for Justin Bieber deportation. Read More , the CEO of Microsoft, was asked by ABC News what he expects to be obsolete technology in ten years. As the commander of the technology juggernaut, he ought to know. His quick answer was the fountain pen.


Fountain Pens? Aren’t They Already Obsolete?

Be careful to whom you say that. There is a growing community of fountain pen enthusiasts that would disagree heartily. Well, sort of. They would admit that fountain pens aren’t really necessary anymore, and they haven’t been since the invention of the ballpoint pen. Technically, that makes them obsolete.

Hi-Tech Ball Point Pen

However, just because a technology is no longer needed doesn’t mean it is no longer wanted, or even useful. Take, for example, the gas-powered car. Tesla’s electric car No, Low Gas Prices Are Not the End of the Electric Car Do falling gas prices spell the end for electric cars like the Tesla Model S? Not so fast. Gas prices aren't the whole story. Read More  is the superior technology, many would say. At the very least, most people would agree that non-petrol powered cars are the future. Google is betting a lot of dough on that, taking it one step further with their self-driving car Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Driving is a tedious, dangerous, and demanding task. Could it one day be automated by Google's driverless car technology? Read More . Yet, everyday millions of people worldwide fire up the engine, pop the clutch, and take off the line like a jack rabbit, if only for a few yards. People love something they have total control over.

Oldest and Newest Electric Cars

Dan Smith of also subscribes to the car analogy his article, Why I Use Fountain Pens.


“Like a Ferrari or McLaren, vehicles that are able to get you from point A to B, you can’t fully appreciate them until you get them on a track, filled with race fuel, and taught how to drive them.”

As a matter of course, if you’re going to drive a fountain pen you need the proper race track, or high quality notebook 3 Paper Notebooks Worth Shelling Out For We do a lot of writing about high-tech ways to keep track of things and manage your life. But sometimes a plain old notebook is the best thing you can use. Read More .

Penmanship a Marketable Skill

Of course, being taught how to drive, er, use a fountain pen includes learning cursive writing. It is a skill, perhaps not in broad demand, but some employers do require it. Some even request handwritten resumés. Here’s a recent one:

Alison Doyle, Job Searching Expert for admits it’s a rare thing but it happens

“…because the job involves writing and your handwriting needs to be legible. It’s also a way to check out your spelling and grammar.”

That’s a good point. Until they invent a pen that comes with spelling and grammar check, you’ve got to rely on your brain when handwriting something.


As Close as They Get to Being One

In Tips for Writing Handwritten Cover Letters, Ms. Doyle advises,”…using a good quality pen.” What could be better quality than a decent fountain pen? She also advises you to:

“Sign your letter with your full name…and make sure your signature is legible, not a scribble. Even if you print your letter, your signature should be written in cursive.”

Cursive – there’s that word again. To really provide an outstanding signature, you need to be able to write clearly in cursive. And since your name is your stake in this world, shouldn’t it be written with a pen that is as serious as that? A fountain pen is the only way to go for important signatures.

No One Likes a Show-off


Journalist for Demand Media, Nicole Vulcan, writes in How to Write a Handwritten Cover Letter for a Resume that a good quality pen should be used.

“While it’s perfectly acceptable to use a ballpoint pen, using a fountain pen or gel pen will look more sophisticated, and demonstrate that you’re willing to take care to make your correspondence look good.”

Your John Hancock

If you don’t think that a good signature, done with fountain pen, is important, you’re in for an argument with the brightest and most powerful people in the world today, and throughout history. When a treaty is signed, you’ll find that it is done so with a fountain pen. When a billion-dollar deal is signed, you’ll find that the fountain pen was the instrument of choice for closing the deal. I would be beyond surprised if Mr. Nadella has never done so. Surely the American Declaration of Independence, arguably the most important document in history, would be nothing to look at if John Hancock printed his name with a ball-point pen, third-grader style. We certainly wouldn’t have the saying, “Put your John Hancock here.”


Mastering the Fountain Pen Equals Success?

“But only a few people ever need to do that. Most of us will never take part in such things.”, you might argue. And you would be right.


However, the reason you might not take part in such epic signings, might be the fact that you don’t use a fountain pen. How’s that for chicken meets egg? Bryan Lewis, headmaster of Mary Erskine and Stewart’s Melville junior school in Edinburgh (that’s a pen full), believes:

“Learning to write in fountain pen not only results in beautiful presentation but also has the not-insignificant bonus of developing children’s self-esteem.”

He stated such in School Brings Back Pens So Pupils Get Write Stuff. It’s common knowledge that it is hard to succeed in life with low self-esteem, so why not take every advantage you can get? Private schools are in the business of turning out leaders in every walk of life. Perhaps he’s on to something. However, being able to afford up to to £20,000 to go to school probably means you’ve already got a head start on Johnny Public School.

Actual ESMS Student Possibly Using Fountain Pen

In fact, Mr. Lewis said that he’s been having a hard time recruiting young teachers with a solid command of the language and attributes that to the fact that they never learned proper handwriting, and that proper handwriting includes the use of a fountain pen. In the same article, it states, “The Headteachers’ Association of Scotland believes handwriting skills should be taught as a “priority” as soon as children begin primary school.” Sounds pretty heady to me.

Stewart’s Melville College – Forward Thinking

Still the New Thing

Truly obsolete technologies disappear from the market, don’t they? Like the carburetor and the 8-track. Yet Steven Brocklehurst, BBC News Magazine writer, reports in Why Are Fountain Pen Sales Rising? that, “Online retailer Amazon says sales so far this year (2012 – author) have doubled compared with the same period in 2011. They are four times higher than 2010.” He states that major fountain pen manufacturers, Parker and Lamy, each have seen sales growth in recent years. A cursory search on eBay for fountain pens reveals over 50,000 results, the majority of them being for new fountain pens – not just collectibles and antiques. These pens also aren’t just the domain of the wealthy or snobby either. Sure the most expensive ones run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a decent pen can be had for as low as a couple dollars.

This is what a $250,000 fountain pen looks like.

Maybe Mr. Nadella thinks fountain pens are obsolete as a technology since their development has stagnated. According to a Google Patent search, patents for fountain pen improvements have been filed as recently as 2013. Patent CN 103350585 A describes a pen that, “… can effectively increase the amount of ink a single inhalation, reduce the number of the ink suction, extended periods of time.”

Not the 2013 Patent

The patent is originally from China, so the Google translation is lacking. Essentially, the inventor has found a way to get more ink into a fountain pen so you don’t have to refill it as often. If people in the country that produce the most high-tech products in the world seem to think fountain pens are worth the effort, perhaps we should listen.

Conclusion: YOU are WRONG, Sir!

This is all to say that, no, fountain pens are not the pinnacle of writing technology, but that, yes, it seems to be a technology that is certainly not yet ready to die. Whether it’s for the beauty of the pen or the words that flow from it, for the nostalgia or the prestige, the fountain pen has a permanent home in the hearts and desks of millions around the world.

Obviously NOT a Penmanship Fan

Sure, Mr. Nadella was probably just throwing a thought out there because it was a rapid fire question, and it was all in good fun. And this exercise has been good fun, too. However, to paraphrase Sir John Cleese, humour only relieves us of the solemnity of a situation, not the seriousness.

Do you use a fountain pen? Are you thinking of getting one now? Are you a fountain pen maker and want to show your appreciation for this article by sending the author lovely fountain pen goodies? Let’s talk about it in the comments. That’s where we all learn and grow.

Image credits: $250,000 Fountain Pen via eBay, ESMS Student Using Fountain Pen via, Fountain Pen and Dictionary via PixaBay, Satya Nadella’s Signature via Microsoft, Waterman Fountain Pen Patent Drawing, 1888 Flocken Elektrowagen by Franz Haag, Tesla Model S, Ballpoint Pen Parts, Bickham Letter by George Bickham, Stewart’s Melville College, Edinburgh by Kim Traynor, Satya Nadella via, John Hancock’s Signature, Pelikan Kolbenf Fountain Pen via WikiMedia.

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  1. Aquaria
    March 18, 2016 at 4:53 am

    I'm a fountain pen user. I suffered a hand injury at my job, and writing with a ballpoint became painful. Compounding the problem was returning to college in my retirement years, and needing to write by hand constantly.

    At first, I tried gel pens and the Uni Jetstream, and they mostly worked, not entirely, but I did get some relief. However, keeping myself supplied with those pens became wasteful and expensive. They don't last very long at all, and the Jetstream is especially expensive. Worse, what do we think happens to the millions of pens that get thrown away every year? Does anyone seriously think that dumping that much plastic into the environment every year is a good thing?

    I wanted a more environmentally friendly solution and something that would make my hand not hurt anymore. An arthritis forum recommended trying fountain pens. I gave it a go, and I've never looked back.

    That pain that made handwriting nearly impossible for me? It's gone. I can write for hours now--and often must for college classes. If I have to write with a standard ballpoint pen, I know, almost instantly. A horrific pain shoots into the spot of my injury, and throbs unmercifully. If I set aside the ballpoint and start writing with my fountain pen, though, the pain either subsides after a minute, or, in some cases, instantly goes away. The chronic inflammation that I used to live with hasn't reared its head in months. My orthopedist was sure that I would need surgery to make the pain go away. He's stunned that something as simple as switching pen types has fixed it.

    Some people think think the reason that fountain pens are good for people with hand pain issues and ballpoint pens are not is because most fountain pens are wider in barrel dimension than most ballpoints, and this certainly helps with reducing hand pain. The success of the Pilot Dr. Grip attests to the importance of a thicker barrel in reducing hand pain. Still, the real reason for the decrease in hand pain with fountain pens vs. ballpoints is in the ink delivery method. Fountain pens put ink on the page from simple contact of nib to page. Once that nib makes contact, the ink is flowing, and you keep going, with the ink laying down on the paper, whether or not you move your hand again or not, as many a daydreaming fountain pen user can attest after putting a pool of Namiki Blue on a page without realizing it.

    With ballpoint pens, the nib of course makes contact with the page, but then one must bear down on the point so that the ball can start moving. It's the friction of the ball rolling ***against*** the paper that gets the ink flowing. Ever notice that ballpoint pen users "dig" into paper when they write? It's from applying so much pressure to get the pens to push ink onto the page, especially with cheap pens that have poor ink flow. That pressure of bearing down and pushing against the paper doesn't seem like much, but it is strong enough to start creating hand cramping. The pain can become chronic for people with hand issues, as it did with me.

    With fountain pens, bearing down to write is a bad idea. You don't need it, first of all, but second, you'll ruin the nib if you use a heavy hand. One of the most difficult transitions for some newcomers to fountain pens is learning how to back off with the pressure when writing. In some cases, it means dialing back the pressure from 11 to about 1. It doesn't take long to get the hang of it, but it can be a battle for some users to wrap their heads around the idea of not needing to murder the page, especially for those who have used nothing but cheap ballpoints.

    • Guy McDowell
      March 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      I cannot thank you enough for writing this comment. It is so insightful in so many areas - accessibility, hand injuries, wastefulness with disposable pens...this should have been an article on its own.

      This summer, I intend to work with my son on writing with a fountain pen. We did for a few minutes last year and he really enjoyed it. He never had formal cursive writing training, but in just a couple minutes he was writing as well as I do. I do set the bar low there, though.

      I can't help but think that at some point in his future, just being able to sign his name properly will serve him well.

      My father hated having to print and sign his name on documents. He would often say to the person that required it, "Can you read my signature? I didn't spend all those years as a left-hander learning to write with a fountain pen so I'd have to print it too." He did have really good penmanship.

      Just a fun anecdote.

  2. James
    March 15, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    I've been using a fountain pen for years. I learned calligraphy as a child, and the pens for that use liquid ink the same as fountain pens do. The main difference is that the nib for calligraphy is wider, allowing for both thin and thick strokes. At some point in college or grad school (I forget which), I got into using fountain pens for regular writing and note-taking. I don't remember exactly when I started, but I bought three pens for myself during that period, all relatively inexpensive and/or on sale. The fountain pen my parents gave me when I finished grad school has been my primary pen ever since. I use it for the vast majority of my non-pencil writing, with a few major exceptions like envelopes, where I worry about the ink running if it gets wet, and certain kinds of paper or surfaces where the liquid ink won't write well. Writing with liquid ink has a different feel than using a ballpoint, rollerball, etc., and it tends to be more expressive, since things like variations in pressure and speed change how the lines look as you write them. If you've never tried it before, I think it's worth a shot. While fountain pens often tend to be expensive, there are cheaper models, and I understand there are even disposable ones now, so cost doesn't need to be a deterrent here. Give it a try -- you might like it. :) As an aside on cursive, I have to admit that I don't use it that much normally when taking notes and such for myself, but I do almost always use it when I write out cards to family and friends. And my signature is in cursive, of course.

  3. A41202813GMAIL
    March 4, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I Do Not Even Remember The Penultimate Time I Received A Traditional Mail Envelope Written With A Fountain Pen ( FP ).

    The Last Envelope I Received Was 2 Years Ago.

    Do You Know That Thing About The Mailman, And Rain, And Snow , And Stuff ?

    Well, Guess What, It Was Raining - The Writing Was Blurred Almost To No Recognition.

    People Could Use ( FP ) On Anything As Much As They Like - I Could Not Care Less - But, Please, Do Not Write Mail Envelopes With Them.


    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Fair enough. That's pretty much my experience too.

      Although penultimate means second-to-last. :D

    • A41202813GMAIL
      March 6, 2015 at 2:28 am

      That Is What I Said - I Do Not Remember The *Penultimate* One.

      The *Last* One Is The Experience I Am Ranting About.


    • Guy
      March 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Fair enough! :)

      I'm just giving you a hard time. I am really glad you commented and read the article.

      Intelligent discussion, like yours, is always warmly welcomed.

    • A41202813GMAIL
      March 7, 2015 at 1:55 am

      Now, You Forced Me Into A Corner, And I Have To Come Clean.

      Most Articles, I Read In A Diagonal Mode.

      I Usually Read A Fair Share Of Comments.

      Why ?

      Well, The Author Has Just 1 Opinion, And It Might Be Completely Biased.

      If There Are A Handful Number Of Comments, You Can Be Sure That These Flags Will Be Immediately Raised, If:

      A - The Author Displays Any Bias,

      B - The Author Forgot Any Important View On The Matter,

      C - GOD Forbid, The Author Got Any Facts Wrong.

      ( I Am Not Even Considering Any Spell Errors - If The Message Got Through I Could Not Care Less About Them, Period ).

      Reading Comments Is One Hell Of A Way To Stay Informed - You Get All The Angles In 1 Go.

      More And More Sites Are Retiring The Comments Section As We Speak, And Leaving Only The "News" - If I Am Right They Will Regret It Big Time.

      Thank You.

  4. dragonmouth
    March 4, 2015 at 12:08 am

    There is one thing a finger is eminently good for and that is for showing disdain for somebody.

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 2:04 am

      Dragonmouth, I agree with you. Wow. Twice in one comment thread, I agree with you. That's gotta be a record. :D

  5. Leah
    March 3, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    I haven't read the article, but I do want to comment that I agree the finger will never replace the writing utensil. I don't think we'll stop writing on paper completely as we'll need them to, at the very least, scribble notes and reminders. I much prefer using a stylus on my touch screens than my own finger. Maybe they'll start teaching students how to write with their fingers in kindergarten and first grade so they can master their handwriting in that form, but for now, handwriting with the finger is not good.

    Now to the fountain pen. It's an art form, like calligraphy. It'll never go away. It will get used less and less, but people will still use it,

    • Carlo Mason
      March 3, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Well said, Leah.

  6. -b
    March 3, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Most of the points in this article are a gross exaggeration to make a point. Is having good penmanship a benefit to you? Yes. Should you spend the time learning caligraphy or cursive over say, good grammer or other skills? Absolutely not. Cursive is NOT a social norm anymore. Look a most modern doctors. Terrible illegible handwriting. Does anyone care? Nope, its all about how well they perform that operation. If you find a job that requires masterful cursive or cursive for that matter I won't be applying.

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 2:03 am

      You are absolutely correct. These are gross exaggerations, at least on my part.

      Although, something not being a social norm isn't really justification to let it fall by the wayside.

      Surprisingly, what we often mistake for poor handwriting by physicians is actually intentional. They use a type of medical short-hand for taking notes and don't really want it to be intelligible to the layperson.

      I don't know many doctors personally, but the few I do know actually have excellent penmanship when not making medical notes. A couple are fountain pen users as well.

    • -b
      March 4, 2015 at 3:15 am

      Certainly medical doctor's artistry with writing instruments varies. I know docs that have certifiably terrible handwriting, and I've always known poor penmanship to be common stereotype. I would be floored to find out that the ultimate reality of this is that medical doctors' penmanship vs the average US citizen wasn't worse... Simply due to the sheer quantity of writing and lack of spare time in their profession.

      I think to distill my point a little further. *From here on this is my version of reality.*

      Writing mainly serves as a tool for typing letters and communicate ideas. Writing can be used to convey an emotion depending on the font that is used, and writing can also be meticulously crafted to convey a sense of importance and respect for the reader. Or simply as art.

      I believe the type of writing you are talking about primarily falls into the "meticulously crafted to convey a sense of importance and respect for the reader" and a little of the others. My point, I don't have time for this! I have snow to shovel, and more thoughts to have. I don't want to 'waste' time crafting my alphanumerics. I want to share higher thought with people and spending time creating beautiful letters distracts me from this. Maybe you can multitask, maybe it's meditative for you, and just maybe you are simply much faster at it than I.
      I just reject the notion that we should eschew fancy handwriting as some sort of lost art that improves daily life. Love letter to the GF, great! She'll love it. Movie poster art, Great! Just not for any sort of routine daily usage...


    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 7:51 pm

      Fair enough, and well reasoned. :)

      All my debate here shouldn't be taken too seriously. The article was a facetious response to an off-hand remark, in an impromptu interview, that was blown way out of context in other media.

      Sure, I like a good fountain pen, but I also will not give up the keyboard! :)

    • dragonmount
      March 5, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      Don't doctors take a mandatory course on how to scribble and obfuscatory writing?

      • Interested
        March 4, 2017 at 11:27 pm

        Want to know the real reason that doctors hand-writing is so poor?
        They are under such extreme time-pressure.
        (I'm married to a doctor, and have 3 others in my immediate family. I have seen their hand-writing deteriorate over the years as they became more stressed.)

  7. paul
    March 3, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    The obsolete tech I'd like to lose, is the Windows and Office balk-ware. But the bosses insist on it.

  8. Thomas Westheimer
    March 3, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Will we not be commenting that when we were young we used the keyboard and what a strange idea that was instead of dictating directly? Can you imagine typing one letter at a time? Much less using a fountain pen. Of course, I dictated this using Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 13 the accuracy and speed is unparalleled and no competition to the keyboard much less the fountain pen!

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:52 am

      Mind if I help you out with a bit of editing? :D

      Your comment should have read:

      Will we not be making comments such as, "When we were young, we used the keyboard.", or, "What a strange idea that was instead of dictating directly? Can you imagine typing one letter at a time - much less using a fountain pen?"

      Of course, I dictated this using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, version 13. The accuracy and speed is unparalleled, and the keyboard is no competition, much less the fountain pen!

      All in good fun, Thomas. As the English might say, "I'm just taking the piss out of you."

  9. CW Juhl
    March 3, 2015 at 1:56 am

    Dude, you obviously do not have a firm grasp on the English language, or reality for that matter. Frankly, the fountain pen is ALREADY obsolete. As is cursive writing (the fact that cursive writing is no longer widely taught in schools is a pretty good indicator that it is obsolete).

    Dictionaries define "obsolete" as "no longer in general use; fallen into disuse." Both the fountain pen and cursive writing fit the definition of "obsolete." The fact that there are a few souls out there who cling to the quaint makes fountain pens and cursive writing no less obsolete. there are a few souls out there that still use a Selectric typewriter too. Are you prepared to argue that a Selectric typewriter is not an obsolete device?

    Further, you appear to confuse typographers with typesetters. I actually worked in publishing (as several small daily newspapers and a magazine) before the desktop publishing "revolution." I can actually remember the rows of phototypesetting machines and the long rows of light tables and hot was rollers and Exacto knives. In fact, digital layout and design virtually killed off the typeSETTING industry as well as an entire industry built up around manual page layout and design. The vast majority of typesetting as well as graphic layout and design used to be performed at the thousands of newspapers, magazines, and trade publications by typesetting and graphics layout specialists. Today very few of those jobs still exist. The last small daily newspaper I worked at no longer employed typesetters or specialized graphics designers and graphics layout specialists.

    As for "mom and pops" designing their own brochures and business cards, one only has to look to VistaPrint and similar businesses to get an idea just how extensive desktop publishing has become.

    Even where graphics designers and typographers are still employed, which is primarily limited to the large agencies and publications, the techniques of the pre desktop publishing era are in fact obsolete. Today virtually no graphics designer or typographer is employable without an extensive knowledge of desktop publishing tools. In fact, I haven't met a graphics designer under 40 who can even tell me what a hot wax roller is used for!

    Frankly, you sir, are an idiot.

    • Carlo Mason
      March 3, 2015 at 8:17 pm

      A mention about VistaPrint brings up a totally unrelated topic and thus cannot be used to support any argument about obsolescence. Fountain pens certainly do not enjoy the widespread use they once experienced, and even that is suspect, because in its heyday, the fountain pen was for the educated, which was always a small percentage of the population...check your history if you don't believe me.

      Fountain pens are a niche, and in terms of actual numbers, may have seen an increase in recent years. There are many persons who love it for the nostalgia, others who wish to improve their penmanship, some who like to feel "snooty", and some who just like having a good pen in their hands.

      Falling into disuse, however, is not a phrase that is attributable to fountain pens.

      Finally, may I just point out that anyone commenting on the use of the English language seriously discounts his or her own credibility when he or she starts off his comment with the word "dude". That, DUDE, makes you look like an idiot.

    • CW Juhl
      March 3, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Well Carlo, as my undergad studies were in English and English lit, I am certain I am on firm ground with my use of the English language in an informal setting. Why heck Dude, I actually taught "Creative Writing" back in the day. :-)

      I'm not sure why you believe that the Vista Print/typesetting analogy does not apply to a discussion on obsolescence. Are you even old enough to recall photo typesetting and layout tables, or how the many small print shops have gone out of business? How many small print shops are left in your area? Here in SoCal, even the larger ones have gone out of business - replaced by the likes of Vista Print and high speed color photocopy machines in FedeX stores and shopping malls.

      "Falling into disuse" does not mean that they are completely out of use. Typewriters have fallen into disuse. That does not mean there is not a niche for typewriters. Fallen into disuse generally means that the device is no longer considered a necessary or "mainstream" tool. The same analogy applies to fountain pens. Like cursive penmanship, fountain pens have fallen into disuse. there will always be the small niche of writers who prefer a fountain pen and cursive writing over a Macbook Pro. But for the most part, both fountain pens and cursive writing have been regulated to ceremonial functions, or hobbyist calligraphers. Both have most certainly fallen into disuse for the purposes they were originally intended for - writing to communicate (versus penmanship as a form of artistic expression). In fact most fountain pens sitting in holders on desks are there for ornamental purposes and have never actually been used. Just because there are some individuals who like the feel of a fountain pen or like a fountain pen for "nostalgic" reasons does not negate the fact that fountain pens, like typewriters, have fallen into disuse.

      To argue that a fountain pen is not an obsolete technology shows a rather remarkable lack of understanding of the definition of "obsolete."

      I'm very confident, Dude, that my understanding of the English language is sound. :-)

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:57 am

      Dude, your use of the word 'dude' and it's incorrect capitalization belies your sound understanding of the English language.

      Yes, I'm trolling. :D

  10. Robert
    March 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

    I truly like Satya Nadella. He has probably done more to finally advance Microsoft in his past year of management than Steve Ballmer did in the 10 years before he came on board. Forward vision and a collaborative attitude.

    That said, I have to completely disagree with him on the concept of fountain pens being replaced by your finger.

    A simple example would be the payment dongles that the likes of Square and PayPal have promoted in their efforts to make magstripe credit cards even more usable for online merchants. Last March, the credit card companies finally announced that the old swipe-and-signature model will be phased out this year because of all the security issues associated with it and replaced by swipe-and-PIN or chip-and-PIN. But in now small part, it was the advent of these new swipe devices and their signature model that put the final nail into the coffin. Or as I call it: Swipe-and-squiggle.

    I still recall the first time I used one of the Square readers attached to a tablet. After swiping my card, the app asked me to sign for the transaction on the screen. I asked the merchant where the pen was and she answered back, "Oh just use your finger! That'll be fine."

    So I managed to scrawl my signature with the tip of my finger, leaving nothing more than an indistinguishable scrawl on the screen not even remotely resembling my real signature, a copy of which was available for comparison on the back of my card. Not that this merchant - and most others - even bother to check any longer these days at any retail establishment. Which means that our signature model has been irreversibly compromised. Not that the adoption of smartcards with PINs is a bad thing but our North American infrastructure is clearly not ready to adapt to this new model.

    But the worst part of Nadella's prognostication is that believing the pen will now go away because of tech is just one more step in the dumbing down of America. We already have Twitter and texting with 140-character limits which have spawned some ridiculous abbreviating in the so-called interest of brevity (or stupidity and lack of spelling/grammar skills). By not emphasizing the true value of handwriting, Nadella is actually promoting a complete shift to reliance on technology for all of our communication skills. Bad thinking. And I would hope that Bill and Melinda Gates with all their education initiatives also give this a long, hard look. Why? Because sh*t happens. Because sometimes our power grids go down. Or people in the Third World have no access to technology and still need to communicate with each other and the outside world.

    I still recall the prediction that desktop publishing would wipe out graphic designers and typographers because every Mom-and-Pop would now have the capability to do brochures and design work with their computers. Those of us in the design industry chuckled. And we were right. In fact, many of us had a name for the results: The Ransom Note Effect. So many of these new "designers" would cram their brochures with all the typefaces they owned - because they could. And it made skilled graphic designers even more in demand, not less.

    Maybe it's just me but somehow I suspect that those of us left with handwriting skills will become even more in demand if Nadella and his believers continue to promote the end of pens and handwriting. Just like desktop publishing was going to wipe out typographers. NOT!

    • Carlo Mason
      March 3, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      It's like you went to the back of my tonsils and took ALL the words right out of my mouth!!!!!

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:45 am

      I agree with Carlo and Robert.

      I did write this as a bit of tongue-in-cheek piece, yet I do really agree with it as well.

      Funny how the only commenters that seem to recognize that it was satirical are those that not only know what cursive is, but have mastered it as well.

  11. dragonmouth
    March 2, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    "...attributes that to the fact that they never learned proper handwriting, and that proper handwriting includes the use of a fountain pen"
    I quite agree with Mr. Lewis. I was taught penmanship in an European elementary school. After coming to the US, I continued my penmanship instructions under the tutelage of Felician nuns. In both instances I was not allowed to use a fountain pen, I had to dip my pen in an inkwell every couple of words. In high school I started using a ball point pen and that is when my handwriting started its descent into scribbling. Now it is nigh illegible. Ball point pens, like idle hands, are the devil's tools.

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:40 am

      Preach it, Brother Dragonmouth! :D

  12. Jerry Hamilton
    March 2, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    I love using a fountain pen, it is just an elegant way to write. I own about 7 different ones and have not spent a lot of money for them. Anyone can own a decent fountain pen so get out there and experience the joy of writing.

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:39 am

      So true, Jerry.

      Sure Lamy's, Kaweco's, Mont Blanc's and such can be pretty steep, but there are some fantastic ones in the price range of a good ball-point. Parker has a few, and there are a few Chinese ones that write very well, too.

  13. Anna
    March 2, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Likewise ... fountain pens for ever .. I now use a fountain pen at every opportunity. It started in a little shop in Paris - my first trip at a relatively mid age and I have not looked back. Good quality paper became the next essential and then a study of inks - let me tell you in the past 8 years there has been a veritable explosion in the choice of inks. I know in a business meeting - the fountain pen means business - and many a good conversation has been had with like-minded clients - so whether you are left or right - if you have to write -you might as well feel really good about writing.

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:37 am

      Hi Anna,

      What inks, pens, and papers have been your favourites?

      Trying to find ink in the rural Maritimes of Canada is nigh impossible! And I don't want to waste money buying it online if I'm not going to like it.

    • Anna
      March 5, 2015 at 12:15 am

      Guy - best Inks - try Japanese brands like Pilot Iroshizuku - not cheap and I suspect you pay for the bottle. Local to you then try Noodlers Ink - again not the cheapest ink on the market - however the range of colours are amazing I use one of their shades of blue -has a rich hue and tone.

      As to paper the only trick is you want a heavier weight than most of the standard notebooks - my favourite is Paperblanks - again not cheap - but wonderful wonderful covers - just a joy to write in - I use them for all the time for business. And I will not be blamed if you take days sorting through the covers - almost impossible to decide.

    • Guy
      March 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm

      Hi Anna,

      Awesome! Thank you.

      I don't mind paying more for a good ink and paper. It's not like I'll go through it all, even in a year probably.

      I like to put,what I think are my most profound or poetic thoughts on paper with my best hand. Vain? Yeah, but that's about as vain as I get. :D

    • Den
      March 6, 2015 at 1:55 am


      Yes! I live in Singapore, so many of the finer inks are quite expensive - like the Noodlers that you mentioned. Sailor brand inks are wonderful! Right now, I am using the kiwa guro nano black one. It's so wonderfully smooth to write with, and blacker than most other blacks. Sailor is a japanese brand, and it also sells some really smooth writing fountain pens. They have some relatively affordable models - but it would still put a dent in your pocket.

      The Sailor Nano Black ink is quite special - apparently it is a bit water proof, and it also writes very nicely on even cheaper types of paper without bleeding. Very nice. I recommend it if you can get your hands on it. :)


      There is nothing better than putting profound thoughts on paper in a beautiful/best hand. Vain? Pretentious? Perhaps - but also satisfying :)

  14. Jerry Kocis
    March 2, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Far worse, by far, than Mr. Nadella's glib remark, is the fact that U.S. schools have largely abandoned the teaching of cursive penmanship.

    • Guy
      March 4, 2015 at 1:35 am

      I agree, Jerry. Except it's even worse - cursive has been abandoned in much of Canada, and several other countries. Sad, really.

      Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but it takes away a method for people to verify that they have agreed to something in writing. It seems like a step towards eradicating the individual.

    • dragonmount
      March 5, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      "It seems like a step towards eradicating the individual."
      You think? Individuality cannot and will not be tolerated as they are disruptive to groupthink and the hive mind. Everybody must march in lockstep to the beat of the same drummer.

  15. Dann Albright
    March 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    When I saw the interview with Nadella, I assumed that he meant "ink pens" when he said "fountain pens." I think he's aiming even higher than the fountain pen at all pens.

    Anyway, I have recently become a fountain pen enthusiast. It's like writing with butter on silk. Even if you just jot notes every day, it's fantastic. I can understand how a left-hander might not like one, but there are definitely pens out there that should work with left-handers (like the Uniball Jetstream). Not a fountain pen, but still nice to write with.

    I also disagree with Nadella. Fountain pens forever!

  16. Jon Green
    March 2, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    For me, fountain pens are royally obsolete. I'm a left-hander. A pen-pusher, not a pen-puller, so my writing hand's always tenser than those of the majority. Fountain pens are a form of exquisite torture. Whilst the righties are scribbling away manically, I'm the one desperately trying to shake more blood into a cramped left hand before I lose the genius idea I was trying to jot down.

    That's just with a gel pen; fountain pens are worse. If I write too quickly, I risk damaging the nib. Oh, and the so-called "left-hand nibs" could never have been invented by someone who actually needed them; they're not one jot better.

    And don't get me on the subject of smudging.

    The moment I had the chance to migrate from a fountain pen to a gel pen, I took it.

    The moment I had the chance to migrate permanently from a pen of any sort to a keyboard, I grabbed it with both hands and tears of blessed relief.

    No, for me Nadella's nailed it. I applaud pen-geek friends for their tenacious love of an instrument almost as outdated as the ink-well and quill, but I'm happiest writing as I am at this moment: with keys under my fingers and an infinite supply of writing paper on the screen.

    • Guy
      March 2, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      Well said, Jon. Often the lefty is forgotten. Wrong of me to do so. :)

    • Tomxp
      March 2, 2015 at 7:29 pm

      I'm a left-hander and LOVE to write with a fountain pen. Those of you who - like me - have seemingly always used ball points have no idea of the .. yes, this is the proper word .. *pleasure* derived when writing with a good fountain pen. It IS the case that there are fountain pens which are poorly designed and don't feel good to the hand. Perhaps Mr. Green has had such dismal experiences. But isn't that true of every fine instrument? Consider smart phones! Cars! ... heck, how about razor blades! (grin) In sum, this lefty is delighted, enjoys, takes pleasure in using a fine writing instrument.

    • Jon Green
      March 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Tomxp - I'm guessing you write with the "crabbed" style, hooking your wrist round so that you can drag the nib. I don't. My grip is like a right-hander's, only mirrored. I've used fountain pens of all types and qualities, and none has suited me. And none has had un-smudgable ink, either. I simply have no desire to revisit the days of writer's cramp, a stained hand (what _is_ the medical name for the side of the hand below the little finger?), a scrawl I couldn't read an hour later, and a left trouser pocket coloured Quink Royal Blue. I wish you joy of it! But for me: good riddance!

    • Dominick
      March 2, 2015 at 10:59 pm

      Your comment eloquently describes my experience with fountain pens to a 't'. Lefties and fountain pens just don't mix.

      I have also found that ball-point pens die relatively quickly for lefties, due to pushing the point across the paper rather than dragging. I believe the ball point becomes clogged with paper fibers, at which point the pen stops working, even though there's plenty of ink left.

      Have not found a good solution for this yet...

    • Carlo Mason
      March 3, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      I too am a left hander, but unlike you, I use a fountain pen, much to the chagrin of my wife, as she waits in trepidation for the laundry and the sometimes ink-stained shirt (but then again that would happen even without the fountain pen). I agree that my writing is more tense than others, but over time it has gotten smoother, and that is in no small part attributable to my use of the fountain pen.

      I highly recommend it to people. I use my iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air because I write slowly, but I noticed one day that my penmanship had severely deteriorated. I resolved to get it going again. The only way to do that is to write. I would recommend a ball-shaped nib for left handers, as opposed to the flat and/or sharp nib point that many people use. The round shape makes the writing less tense.

    • Carlo Mason
      March 3, 2015 at 8:10 pm

      I own a LAMY, and I love it...I appreciate your comment, but I do disagree with you.

    • Mike
      March 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      Maybe you could convert to writing in Arabic script?

    • Jon Green
      March 13, 2015 at 9:06 pm

      Mike - I've enough problems with writing Chinese!