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Reflections on production of the written word
  1. David Ponsonby
  1. Dormaley, Fore Street, Cornwall TR20 9HD

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    Many of my early publications were handwritten, and an ink ribbon typewriter was high-tech for me!

    I have reflected that, when I began school in the late 1950s, using a stick pen (no fancy quill) and ink well was supposed to enhance our writing skills. Shakespeare would have been right at home even after 400 years! Fortunately, my father was a police officer and required a typewriter for his reports. It must have weighed 30 pounds in order to remain still while the carriage returned, etc. When I was at graduate school in the US during the 1970s, term papers had to be typewritten. I was pleased to discover Erasable Bond paper which made mistakes disappear.

    Upon returning to England, I purchased a portable which had a ribbon containing a cover up material on its lower half.

    By the time I returned to the States in the 1980s, IBM had developed the electric golfball series. Carbon ribbons made the finished article appear to have been typeset! Could it get any better than this? Apparently, yes, and in short order we advanced to electronic typewriters, word processors, and computers—a period of merely 40 years. We now, quite literally, have the world at our fingertips—within a scant four years.

    What's next? We are already embracing the replacement of dexterity with voice recognition. Then we attach our brains directly to the computer and upload, or download, in whichever direction? No need for books, or finger dexterity.

    This would certainly answer the old chestnut about the redundancy of information during medical education: “By the time you graduate from medical school, half of what you learned will have become obsolete. If we only knew which half . . .”.

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