Traveling around the D-Day beaches made me pause for thought about just how different the records would have been if electronic records (emails etc) had been kept rather than traditional pen and paper? Would many of us still treasure troves of beautiful love letters written by our parents (and grandparents) such as Janie Emaus discovered. Would J. D. Salinger have completed ‘Catcher in the Rye’ had he not carried the manuscript in his backpack?
Looking at the beaches and conditions which our troops braved, made me wonder how well a mobile device like an iphone would have endured. After all there were no sockets for recharging such devices then, no wifi (or 3G to send our messages) and wet devices as we all know are prone to failure. Whereas pen and paper can be used anywhere and in the most adverse weather (witness Scott’s diaries).
With pen and paper whether to write a love letter, diary, one feels compelled to think before hitting the paper after all who wants to send a document with lots of crossing outs. Moreover, it is very much more personal and definitely one to one unless of course you send carbon copies. Additionally there is the whole art of graphology and what your writing says about your character. All this is missing from email and texts.
Yes, clearly electronic messages can be preserved but somehow an email does not feel as interesting as a well preserved letter (document). Emails lack the tactile attributes which certainly for me make old letters look and feel so interesting.
With email of course there is always the danger of sending your love letter to the wrong person and ending up on gardening leave as has happened to many a person.
Whilst many organisations are working hard at creating paperless offices, for myself and many others, pen and paper still have a role and especially for the more emotional communications such as love letters, diaries and thank you notes to someone who has gone the extra mile.
Indeed the fountain pen is becoming as much a status symbol as the latest electronic devices: Mont Blanc has just re-released the original Meisterstück 149 which has been used at one time or another by many leaders from J.F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.
Even in meetings I confess to working with a fountain pen and beautiful leather bound notebook from BomoArt. It does not need any electricity (or wifi), it works every time I open it, is often quicker to find jottings in than on my ipad, and there is no chance of being distracted by seeing new emails! And it makes me stand out from the crowd. Call me old fashioned, but I feel as efficient as all my colleagues.