Additions and Subtractions

Inventions through the years have changed the way people live, but none as dramatic in my lifetime and for me as the internet.  The internet has added great access to information and the speed at which it is available.  What used to take hours or days to gain knowledge through physical visits to the library and scouring through books can now be found by tapping a few simple keyboard buttons in your own home.

In houses around the country and in libraries everywhere, encyclopedias used to be lined up or stacked on bookshelves.   Each book in the set was designated for one letter or more of the alphabet, and the books explained/described almost anything you were curious about.  

My family had a set prominently displayed and available for homework assignments or to simply satisfy a curiosity to learn more about anything.

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Mr. Legs’ family also owned a set. Theirs was a gift from a grandfather who sold them. The photo below shows him with his display at a local fair.

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Those heavy books, along with a plethora of other paper, are no longer needed because they have been replaced by machines and screens that deliver information instantly before our eyes.  All that is needed is a light touch of a fingertip or a verbal question, and a list of resources rushes to your disposal. The convenience afforded to us now is almost surreal when someone my age or older considers the changes that have taken place. JoAnne Simon aptly says “Our information source has gone from World Books to a world box.”

Generations before the internet could never have imagined how easily and quickly it would be to access information today; and generations after this may find it difficult to imagine the steps that used to be necessary to achieve results even close to that of using the internet. Only those of us who have experienced life both before and after the internet and the changes it brought can fully grasp its impact on our daily lives.

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We must be discriminatory about sources, and we must also be aware of and on our guard for scamming, cat fishing, cyber bullying and more; but we can enjoy the conveniences of the technology we have with information instantly available and even premade pictures to express emotion. We’ve gained so much in the realm of knowledge availability and time saved, but we have lost things too.

Our libraries are quieter.  Shopping online alone is replacing trips to the store with family and friends. Social media is everywhere but our in-person social networks seem smaller and our personal conversations seem fewer.  We now send texts to schedule phone conversations.  Convenience seems preferred over personal interaction. Email has been replacing handwritten letters. In fact, the printed word has mostly overtaken handwriting in general. Everything is faster and more convenient, but is it better?

We, as a human race, may (even if unknowingly) miss the things that are being replaced.  I, personally, am missing handwriting the most.

As a face represents a person, handwriting is a visual representation of the personality that drew the strokes. Unique to each of us in size, shape and style, handwriting with its curves and loops is a symbol of the person who wrote it. I think back to the many times that written communication arrived in the daily mail. The immediate recognition of penmanship on an envelope created excitement. When email arrives, I recognize the name, but there is no personality in the printed letters – no jump to a facial image because of the custom strokes on paper, just letters of the alphabet. A typed word and a handwritten word convey the same thinking, but there is more substance, more meaning, to them when a pen in hand reflects personality.

Some people still send thoughts the old-fashioned way, and I appreciate the extra time they take to hand write a message, address an envelope, affix a stamp on it, and physically send it off.

I have kept special letters sent to me. When my eyes see my name on the envelope and my hand holds them, I identify the sender by their unique style of writing, which is shown in the slant of each stroke, and I sense the connection of relationship. Letters from those now physically gone are a material memory that stirs emotion. My email inbox’s typed letters, even with emoji’s, is not and never will be the same.  Emails, texts, and documents, they are all “digits that eventually disappear in cyber dust”, says Mr. Legs.

With the advancement of technology, it seems the art of cursive may eventually fade away completely. That thought brings about many unanswered questions. What would our signatures look like then? With no physical piece of paper in envelopes to touch, will there be love letters to keep and cherish? Will graphology/graphanalysis still play a part in solving crimes?

I appreciate my computer, my “world box”, and all of its conveniences; but I do miss the special connections of yesterday’s handwriting.

For those at an age to remember, is there anything you miss from your pre-internet days?

About Climbing Downhill

Wife and mother of grown kids, in my 60's and dealing with MS, making life's moments count and trying to offer something of value to others along the way.
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7 Responses to Additions and Subtractions

  1. regehrlein says:


    Loved this article! Brilliant analysis of what we have lost due to keystrokes replacing handwriting. Spot on.

    Keep up the great work!


  2. Kristin Swinchoski says:

    I had this conversation with a patient of mine fairly recently.. The patient loved being able to walk to the mailbox. One of her remaining pleasures. We began to discuss how the younger generations will never understand the joy of receiving a handwritten letter. My brother found a form online my grandmother had submitted to apply as a century farm and shared with each of us. The first thing I saw was my grandmother’s writing so recognizable… it was bittersweet.

  3. JoAnne Simon says:

    Years ago while raising a family I could be heard saying that my dream was to be able to go to the library in the morning and stay there all day until they closed the doors. I never dreamed I’d have a keyboard and a screen in my home where I could open a door to the entire world with one click. As amazing as it is, I feel sad the younger generation will not have the personal handwritten letters recording the daily events of life that we cherish from those that came before us. Excellent post Kerri. Maybe someone will pick up a pen and send off a handwritten note today?

  4. Mary Jane Aufdengarten says:

    I miss cursive and the uniqueness of style and flair!! Yours is beautiful!

  5. heide45fidnetcom says:

    Kerri, no one could say this better. I’m sorry the younger generations won’t know our history.

  6. Linda Semo says:

    I always love 💕 your in-depth insight! You have such a flair for writing!! I always loved using our encyclopedias. I also love getting cards and hand written letters.

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