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How The Ballpoint Pen Killed Cursive

In Death of a Salesman, Biff impulsively steals Bill Oliver’s fountain pen. That would be roughly culturally equivalent to a modern Biff swiping a businessman’s custom iPhone case, rather than a modern pen. This history of the ballpoint argues that the new pens cut down on leaks, but in the process made handwriting more physically demanding. The ballpoint’s universal success has changed how most people experience ink. Its thicker ink…

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Amazon may well be the most evil company in tech

Last week, I had a hardware emergency. A kid in a small-town hardware store spent about 15 minutes helping me find the right nut. I had the troublesome part with me, and used a vise on their worktable and their wrench to twist it in place. The nut cost 50 cents. I asked the kid if he could accept tips; he said no. In front of his manager (or at least…

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Facebook Should Pay All of Us

The trick is that most people think they are getting a good deal out of Facebook; we think of Facebook to be “free,” and, as marketing professors explain, “consumers overreact to free.” Most people don’t feel like they are actually paying when the payment is personal data and when there is no specific sensation of having handed anything over. If you give each of your friends a hundred dollars, you…

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How Technology Has Changed The Way We Write

Social media services have put writing tools into the hands of people who probably don’t think of themselves as writers, but there they are, captioning photos and picking hashtags and maybe even pausing just a few seconds to edit before they hit “post.” This radio interview offers a good, informal overview of why people who study writing and technology don’t get too worked up over what Twitter is doing to…