Notes From Inside a Glass Prison

Photo by Touchns CEO | CC BY 2.0

Liberation from drudgery isn’t what it used to be. It’s now mostly become a matter of upgrading our masters.

Imagine you’re an HR staffer at a temp agency. In the course of a workday you take a lot of meetings and in them lots of notes. Sick of transcribing your scribbles, you decide to buy a Qwyl smartpen. It’s a bit bulkier than the average writing instrument but writes smoothly, has a responsive grip, is nicely balanced, and its ballpoint ink holds fast to almost anything. What makes your Qwyl really special is that it can beam letterforms to an app on your mobile device that, once you train it properly, parses your glyphs into words it can insert into memos, emails and text messages.

That’s not all your Qwyl does, or you wouldn’t have paid $179 for it. A display running along the barrel indicates whether the pen is connected, and can tell you time, date, and temperature. It can also display text messages that you can respond to in longhand.
Your phone or tablet would have to work overtime to provide all this cool functionality that promises to add precious minutes to your productive day. Thus, to make Qwyl work in real time, the handwriting recognition part gets done in the cloud and beamed back to the app.

The little darling is almost retro in the way it lets you conduct correspondence, reminiscent of sending postcards, except that delivery is instantaneous with no stamp required (postage paid via your data plan). But…

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