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May 05, 2003 12:02 IST

With the increasing use of computers, is Gen-X losing touch with pen and paper?


Year 2002: I stared unblinkingly at the computer screen, unable to think of a single word to start my assignment. I finally gave up and turned off the computer, and sat down with a pen and blank sheet of paper. I started writing. The ideas flowed like a turbulent river. What the computer couldn't do, pen and paper did.


Year 2003: I am writing a semester exam paper. I time myself, yet can't finish the last question on time. Later, I wonder why. Then it hits me. I now type faster, but write slower. Pen and paper perhaps don't work for me anymore.


I am probably one of the millions of people for whom the computer is second nature. They may not eat, sleep and drink computers, but their lives are quite dependent on the automaton. While there are many who maintain a balance between the two, there are a few who still prefer the more traditional forms of writing and reading - on paper. For them, the computer is just another technological development that makes life easier; and at the same time, more complicated.


While many would expect Gen X to be computer-dependent, it is not so. For most, a balance between the two modes of expression, paper and computer, seems to be the solution.


"While writing, I prefer the computer because it is more convenient and you can type freely without any botheration as it can be edited later. On the other hand, for drawing I prefer paper and pen, because the realistic look cannot be made on a computer," says Ganesh Saseendran, an 18-year-old student.


Nasreen A, a media student, finds expressing herself on the computer extremely difficult. "I can't sit down with the keyboard and mouse and start writing," she says. "I need pen and paper to express myself."


And when it comes to reading, views differ again. "I prefer reading on paper than on the computer. Books, newspapers and magazines are easy to read and portable. I can read sitting by the window or lying on the bed or leaning on a sofa, or carry a book along and read whenever I get time, like in the bus or train," says Puneet S, an engineering student.


But for Ganesh's mother Neeta who has studied software, e-commerce and done a masters in computer science, and once spent 16 hours a day on the computer, the Internet is the perfect place to read. "You get more information online, because links to other Web pages open up a number of avenues. This feature is absent in magazines, so you get limited data."


Neeta finds it difficult to write on paper, and scored poorly in a number of written tests while studying e-commerce because she was unable to finish on time. "But in the final exam for certification, which was online, I was the highest scorer," she says.


Year 2010: Will the computer replace pens, pencils, notebooks and erasers?


"Definitely not," says Ganesh emphatically. "Computers can never take over the traditional forms of reading and writing." Nasreen agrees: "I don't think the computer is meant for personal creativity and expression." Puneet treads middle ground: "I think both paper and computer are here to stay. No one thing of the two can replace the other."


According to Neeta, computers can easily replace pen and paper. "Working on the computer is less time-consuming, and more helpful because of spell check and other such features," she points out.


There is no denying the downside of the excessive use of computers. CTS, or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, watery and sore eyes, back pain are but a few of the health problems a computer user can encounter. Neeta adds, "When you are constantly giving commands to a machine, you interact less with people because it takes up too much of your time." Ganesh believes a computer is not too reliable. "It may suddenly hang up, or get affected by a virus and your data can disappear in a jiffy."

As the battle between paper and computer rages on, it becomes increasingly evident that today's generation is more dependent on the computer than ever before. As a student with tight deadlines, I found myself struggling to complete my assignments when I wrote them out on paper and then fed them on the computer to print them neatly.


I finally solved the problem by completely eliminating the step of writing on paper. But luckily, I recently discovered that the pen still works magic for me. All is not lost!


What about you? Do you think today's generation is losing touch with pen and paper?



Rohini Kapur