For anyone who hasn't heard the buzz about Microsoft's Origami Project
, take a look at this vido file
to get a glimpse of what it is probably about. the video is a year old but i reckon it's a fairly accurate preview of the real thing. the thing that really struck me about the video was that people were writing hand-written notes to each other, in emails, messages etc. What a bizarre idea. Yeah we've had PDA's without keyboards for a long time, but they only ever had a very small user base, because of the need to learn a new form of writing that the palmtop could understand. traditional touch screen hand-writing technology is woefully slow to right messages of any length on. if the Origami device becomes mainstream, which i think it probably will, then it is quite a departure from the way we interact with computers since they were invented.
personally i do so much typing and so little hand-writing that i tend to think about pen + paper as an old thing i left behind many years ago. But... when you stop to think about it, emails and 'typed' communications lose a huge amount of personality compared with traditional hand-writing. You can't identify the writer of an email based on the style of writing, like you can with a hand-written letter from someone you know well. emails are usually so limited in expression that we have created a whole new culture of emoticons to bridge the gap, but it's hard not to come across as cheesy and immature when you write things like
:O) :^) etc...
We've all got very good at typing, because computers understand fixed characters much better than squiggles of writing. Typed content is also more efficient in terms of storage size, and search capabilitiy. You still can't meaningfully scan a JPEG of a hand-written letter and be sure to get all the words out of it. But it looks like that is the way Microsoft are headed. It is really a massive shift if this takes off, because the modern computer experience is built around typed content. The internet would be nothing if we had to wade through volumes of illedgible hand writing before we found the information we wanted. Obviously this is looking at the extremes, and we'll always have typed content with us, but to me it seems like this is the first mainstream introduction of mixed text content arriving on our desktops, from the pen and the keyboard.
In the grand scheme of things, i actually think typed content will be a blip on the radar of the way we record text information. For thousands of years we've been writing things down, and i can't think of any good idea for why that should all be thrown out the window, except technology limitations. It looks like Microsoft are challenging those limitations.