Many Catholic School wood desks in the 1950s had little holes for glass ink wells. Students were required to use fountain pens. Ballpoints made life too easy, a near occasion of sin. The students quickly learned that the little filling lever on the side of the fountain pen could transform the writing tool into an ink projecting armament. The ballpoint might be the lesser of two evils, after all. Soon, it was out with the wooden desks, and in came metal ones without inkwell holes.

Back then Marshall McLuhan said "we shape our tools, and our tools shape us." Students have been getting dumber ever since. Correlation? Causation? Who knows? In 1967, McLuhan also predicted to our Understanding Media class at Fordham that icons would reemerge as a major form of communication. Icons were mostly thought of back than as little two dimensional holy pictures from centuries past, shiny gold halos etc. Now icons are ubiquitous, hanging out all day in the bookmarks bar, a gateway to all the world's knowledge, lighting up texts with smileys, and drawing artists, "the antennae of society" per McLuhan, to Apple products while we print-oriented dinosaurs still bang out linear sequences of letters on PCs.

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Fun little history!

One thing that strikes me as super odd is the conflation of seriousness with doing meaningful work, or maturity. Somehow, all three of those things are supposed to be the same, I guess. I don't know about you, but I tend to do some of my best work when I'm being a bit playful.

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