How Large Your Pen Is

Touch-screen interfaces are all the rage these days. In fact, they're starting to look like a requirement. Certainly for consumer items like smartphones and tablets, a touch-sensitive interface is mandatory. And with the impending rollout of Windows 8 just days away, soon PCs and laptops will want touch interfaces as well. Point-of-sale terminals, retail kiosks, and industrial applications all want that special touch.

What most of these are missing, though, is the world's oldest type of hands-on interface: the pen. Or, more accurately, the stylus. New-fangled tablets and smartphones pop up images of a QWERTY keyboard and expect us to type on them. (It's surprising how quickly millions of adults adapted to the hilariously Lilliputian 2¾-inch keyboard on the iPhone.) But what we really want to do is write. Left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous, we're raised to use a pen, pencil, reed, or pointed stick on one hand. For thousands of generations, that’s what we've done.