What Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella thinks of stationery
In a quick-fire questionnaire he was asked which technology that we rely today would be redundant in 10 years time. He did think about the answer unlike most other questions he answered, but he said ‘fountain pens’. With some confidence too. He doesn’t explain why, other than the obvious (digital kills the analogue star, to misquote Buggles). The article tries to expand on this by suggesting apps will relieve us of the need to write with a pen on paper. Two thoughts immediately sprung to mind – first up, who says all demand is driven by need? Does desire not play a part? Surely pens and particularly fountain pens thrive precisely because we desire something tactile and ‘real’ and a pen with its component parts feeding ink to a nib onto paper is a process that is almost mechanical. My 2-year old son loves steam trains (and I mean loves), but after watching hours of YouTube videos of them and having recently travelled on the North Norfolk Railway, there is a fascination and beauty in antiquated technology. Steam trains are surely past any sell-by date but are a wonder of science precisely because you can see how they work? The same for other supposedly ‘dead’ technologies, such as vinyl. Often declared dead by the arrival of CDs and then digital, they are enjoying a surprising resurgence.
My second thought was that many a year ago, back in the original dotcom boom, the phrase ‘the paperless office’ was used with reckless abandon. Yes we have many advances in this area, but I see so much paper being used that it feels like a fools dream. Look no further than the number of notebooks that a company like Google, Yahoo or Adobe purchase – we ourselves have supplied such companies with branded notebooks. The irony of having your notebook and no pen to write in it. Or will the notebook die when it’s bed-fellow the fountain pen dies out before it? Should you be worried if you own a stationery business? No really, should you…?