The discussion of whether handwriting is faster than typing poses some controversy. Age-group demographics is a factor among people when deciding this issue. In general, younger people, those under age 25, are more likely than those over age 65 to select keyboards over longhand script for writing speed (1).
Our recent survey found that 18-24 year old Americans are 10% less likely than 35-44 year olds to choose handwriting over typing options for speed and 70% less likely than those 65 years and older.
It seems true that keyboards are faster. Although there may be exceptions, even a moderately skilled typist can write words more quickly, and legibly, than the fastest handwriting. And, as of yet, no kind of commercially available longhand digitization can compete with the real thing (2).
While younger people’s actual hands-on experiencing writing longhand may be comparatively limited (having grown-up with computers), they recognize writing by hand is a slower process than keyboard typing (3). Older people’s responses may be attributed, at least to some extent, to their lesser life-experience with digital communication. This is the case even though computers have been in the mainstream since PCs became commonplace in the mid-1980s.
However, for someone over 80 today, typewriters were a fairly new device when they were born, and remained the communication-object of choice until they were in their 60s. Telephone and Dictaphone communication became more ordinary as these people reached their teens (late 1930s-early ’40s), with few real changes until electric typewriters became conventional for business after 1965. Usually female secretaries and receptionists did most of the typing and much of the telephone communication during that period, although business management used Dictaphones and similar devices to record directives and strategies from the top (for secretaries to transcribe). Since these factors remained largely in effect through 1985, it is not surprising that people over 65 years remember them as familiar way of enacting most communications. Writing by hand, with for instance a Mont Blanc pen, was similarly important.
Typewriters, Dictaphones, even landline telephones are far less typical in contemporary offices, having long been replaced by PCs, laptops and other digital devices. Even PCs and laptops may largely be phased-out of business use by 2020, permanently replaced by mobile devices like cellphones and tablets. Growing up since the large-scale introduction of these devices, people under 25 have an easier time accepting these changes than those over 45, and will be in a better position to accommodate further transitions in digital media, whatever they may be. And one might expect their children to more readily adapt to the coming evolution of digital communication than they will, an important condition of future strategies for devising and marketing products like keyboard cases for laptops. Our study highlights that the younger folks are the more likely they are to reach for a digital device than a pen.
Tablets have been ‘mainstream’ for several years now. Even as their uses proliferate, they will continue to evolve as will the accessories available to enhance them, just as the keyboard has evolved from the typewriter to the KeyFolio keyboard case.