Writing "ain't" what it were. Some elementary schools have curtailed
the teaching of cursive writing based on the idea that keyboarding is
more important in an age of computer input. This seems to us to be a
limited view since, at a minimum, pen and paper don't often "crash" and
seem to work well even in power failures. .That being said, most of us
use smartphones, keyboards and, increasingly, tablets. The most popular
cellular phone, the iPhone, and its big cousin the iPad, are well
designed for input gestures. We "press" icons on a screen as if they
were buttons and we can use our fingers to draw on electronic paper as
readily as if it were a sketch pad. But fingers aren't the only way to
go. Ever since a caveman drew in the sand with a stick, ( We remember it
well!) using a stylus has been faster and easier and has allowed more
subtle ideas to be communicated. One problem today is that the stylus
and the touch-screen don't want to play together very well.
Touch screens come in two types, resistive and capacitive. Resistive
screens register a press when two thin panels are pushed together and
the current flows between them. These passive devices where used in
early generations of touch sensitive screens like the Palm Pilot,
because they could be made to work with any pressure source, be it a
finger, a pen or a nylon rod like the ones embedded in some special pen
cartridges. Capacitive screens, used in newer devices like the iPad and
iPod for example, are different beasts. They use a charged transparent
conductor in a film that covers an insulator. Touching the insulator
with anything that conducts electricity changes the electrostatic field
in that area that can be detected. Pressing a capacitive screen with an
insulator like a glove or a pen will not be detected at all, so special
conductive materials are needed in lieu of a good conductor like the
Jerry Leto, the president of TouchTec, a maker of a combination
pen/stylus, discovered this several years ago when he found that his
iPod didn't work with gloves. His solution? Invent a process to make
leather a sufficient conductor to trigger a capacitive device. His
enhanced leather is currently incorporated into several designer lines
of gloves (www.gaspargloves.com) as well as those for the military and
first-responders from companies like Outdoor Research. .
He went further than the original glove by using the leather to make
a dome-like cap on a ballpoint pen so that both ends of the pen can
"write" depending on the surface. What is unique about the TouchTec pens
is that this company can equate "looking good" and "feeling good about
yourself" in this deceptively simple implement. According to a recent
interview, earlier in his career, Leto was at Stanford University
helping to develop easy access to high-tech equipment for the disabled.
He never forgot this early work. His initial idea for the stylus tip
wasn’t intended to be part of a convenient pen/stylus., Instead, it was
designed to be the tip of an under 1-ounce mouth-pointing stick that
could be used by people who are quadriplegic. Using a mouth pointer,
these folks, who usually cannot move much of their body other than their
heads and necks, can have access to computers and mobility devices.
During that same interview, Leto related that his leather-topped pen was
marketed at a relatively low cost so that part of the increased sales'
profits could be used to support continued work with the disabled.
Touch-Tec pens (www.touchtecpens.comare proof-positive that the
feeling good and writing well while looking good can all co-exist..
Writing well on a tablet can be as much of a challenge as is juggling a
separate stylus and and old, everyday pen (We particularly find that the
required inkwells are really hard to pocket!). In-a-hurry, ham-fisted,
perambulating purveyors of information always appreciate simplicity in
communication (or alliteration). A combination pen/stylus makes it a
breeze to make one's mark on the world, physically or electronically.
TouchTec combination pen/styli fill the bill here. They weigh 0.6
ounces, come in two different calibers (7 mm. and 9mm.) and in black or
silver two finishes (black and silver ) and they accept standard Cross
pen refill cartridges. Either diameter pen is very comfortable to the
touch and they are available for approximately $15.
so "high tech" about a $15 pen? Very simply, it allows you to press
icons or sketch any on capacitive surface screen (read "i" anything,
tablets, smartphones, netbooks) without making marks and often, quite a
bit more quickly and accurately than one could do so with a bare finger.
The soft, half-round stylus tip on the top of the pen glides easily and
responds well to differences in touch.
Let's summarize: Touch-Tec II pens write well as low-tech ballpoint
pens or high tech styli;, they look good;, feel good; and "do good"; all
at a price that is about half that of similar products and about the
same as most single purpose stylii.. While they won’t melt in your hand,
they may melt your heart. Sounds like a winning combination! As someone
who worked at providing technology access for disabled students more
than 20 years ago, I see this as a "win-win" all the way. Grabbing one
today fulfills the NCCFUN philosophy of whistling while you work with
the added benefit of a enjoying the feeling that comes from helping