Smart Pen May Not Be Smart Enough To Decipher Journalists’ Notes

Smart Pen May Not Be Smart Enough To Decipher Journalists’ Notes

Could a Livescribe “smartpen” help girl reporter Sally Baxter solve the mystery of the Greek goddess, runaway princess or African alibis? Who knows? It depends on whether or not the pen could read her handwriting. Most reporters’ writing is illegible.

“Where did you learn your shorthand, Tokyo? I’ve been reading shorthand for 15 years, but never like this. Can you read it? Or doesn’t it matter since it’s only going into a newspaper?”

Blair Brown, “Continental Divide”

By Tom Henderson

“Quoth the Raven: ‘Netherlands!’”

Thank goodness Edgar Allen Poe didn’t have my note-taking abilities. If he had waited even 24 hours to type up his interview with the Raven, he never would have been able to decipher his notes.

So I laugh derisively at the Livescribe Sky pen. It promises a miracle for journalists and similarly infamous scribblers who still take notes in longhand.

It will take what you write and turn it into audio recordings and print transcripts.

Right. That would be a miracle xpau se. The inventors of this gizmo have never seen my notes.

After 30-some years in journalism, I have developed my peculiar form of shorthand. Not even I can read it sometimes. I need to transcribe my notes within 24 hours, or all is lost.

Maybe some of the young whippersnappers coming up through the ranks get as in penmanship, but most journalists of my vintage write notes the way Pablo Picasso drew faces.

Good luck deciphering that gibberish.

Nonetheless, PC World swears that the Livescribe Sky pen is the future of note-taking. It saves audio and printed transcriptions of your jottings on your Evernote account via Wi-Fi. You can also plug in a Micro-USB cable and save your work to a PC or Mac.

Whatever the $%#& that means. I’m just a guy who got clunked on the head while watching “Barney Miller” and woke up in the 21st century. I’m still getting used to the fact that you can own copies of movies.

Yet the folks at PC World seem to know what they’re talking about.

They say the pen is pretty bulky. It would pretty much have to be, I assume, to have its little computer screen that shows you how much battery strength and Wi-Fi access you have as well as telling you the time and date.

You can also access a calculator and enough other gizmos to make the sonic screwdriver on “Doctor Who” look like a Boy Scout pocket knife.

There are other so-called “smartpens” out there such as the Adapx Capture that lets you write on any type of paper. Livescribe requires a special expensive paper with tiny dots on the page that track your writing with precision.

That is your writing, not mine. My writing would no doubt make the pen fizzle, pop and explode.

PC World reports Livescribe is particularly cool for journos covering live events because it can sync audio recordings and written notes. Goodness me att mobile transfer, that is cool. Just not for me.

The technological difficulties of the “pencil” have frustrated my reporting abilities on more than one occasion. And I have watched enough science fiction to know that there are alien dampening fields, subspace interferences, ion storms and other things that can keep technology from functioning.

Do you know what kills the Livescribe for most working journalists?

PC World reports its battery will last for weeks provided you remember to regularly turn the pen off. You seriously expect a bunch of absent-minded nerds to remember to turn off a piece of technology?

As a former editor, I can hear the call from the reporter now.

“Uh, Chief? It’s me, Brian. I’m over at the Kiwanis pie sale, and I, uh, forget to turn off my Livescribe last night. Could someone come out to the fairgrounds and bring me a pencil?”