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This video begins with Caroline Weaver, a pencil shop owner, discussing how the audible component of a pencil is unique. She notes how the pencil represents a fairly simple technology, as it is made from wood with layers of paint, an eraser, and a core comprised of graphite, clay and water. Weaver continues by explaining how although the pencil is simplistic in its nature, it took hundreds of years of collaboration to create. The pencil’s history begins with graphite, as it was cut into sticks and wrapped in paper or string and sold on the streets. The evolution continues with a man in France blending graphite with powdered clay and water to create the strong core used today. Meanwhile, in America, a grading system was created to adequately scale the hardness of pencils. Softer pencils contained higher levels of graphite, making them darker and smoother for writing. Harder pencils consisted of higher levels of clay and created lighter and finer lines. The next phase of development involved creating the hexagonal nature of the pencil. Pencils with attached erasers then became the norm.

“The pencil is a thing that the average user has never thought twice about; how it’s made or why it’s made the way it is because it’s just always been that way.”

This quote particularly pertains to our class because many of the writing technologies we use on a daily basis have become normalized. We do not think twice about the history of pencils because they were invented many years ago and are so common today. By contrast, we are often reminded of the history of computers as their technology is constantly being revolutionized. English 116 is, “The History of Writing: From Pen to Pixel,” and this video explains the history of the pencil.



What other writing technologies are normalized?

How does a writing technology become normalized?

Will computers or digital technology ever become normalized?

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