The ancient art of putting quill to paper has been a celebrated sign of a civilized society. While we may not rely on the plucked feathers of a large bird to place our thoughts down in writing today, there is still a place for handwritten notes in our daily lives. Whether you’re a student in school or a busy professional sketching out operational strategies in your planner, the act of putting pen to parchment is as relevant today as it was when our ancestors scratched images on cave walls countless years ago.
There’s no question that the method in which we jot down and store information has changed dramatically over the past several years. Gone are the days of needing to send handwritten letters to friends and relatives as a basic form of communication. Also approaching extinction is the widespread use of handwritten documents in the workplace. More and more businesses are going paperless, citing economic and environmental reasons for making the transition.
Fear not, lovers of the written word. There are plenty of advances being made in the world of handwriting that even now make this almost spiritual activity of note taking all the more interesting. Pens today have evolved to the point where some of them contain actual computers that can look up definitions, record lectures, and even play games with you as you jot down notes during class.
Here is my list of the top five pens for geeks.
Livescribe Echo Smartpen – $160
Imagine going to class armed with nothing more than a pen and a notepad. Using these two objects, you spend your time in class taking notes that can be uploaded to your Mac back at the dorm room, playing games, looking up various subjects in Wikipedia, and still managing to record the entire lecture. Not only that, but you can replay the lecture at various points instantly by simply tapping on something you scribed during that point in the conversation.
Livescribe has created a platform that takes the otherwise simple act of note taking to a new level. You can go back in time and hear lecture points given by the professor days, weeks, months, and even years ago by simply turning to that page in your notebook and tapping on your notes. Yes, this pen really is that capable.
Available at anywhere between $100 and over $200, the Livescribe line includes various storage capacity points. You can pick up a starter “pro” pack with an 8 GB version of the Livescribe right now on Amazon for roughly $160. That’s not a bad deal, especially if you’re a student.
Inka Pen – $20
Have you ever found yourself in the situation where you needed a pen, but one wasn’t readily available? You may keep one on you all the time, except this one occasion where you really needed it.
Enter the Inka Pen. This pen is not only extremely reliable, but it actually screws apart and transforms into a small attachment for your keychain. With a few motions, you’ve got a full-sized pen at your disposal ready to sign and return to your keychain. Not only that, but the Inka Pen includes a stylus, which is handy when using devices that use a resistive touchscreen technology.
For times when you just want something to write with, you can pop the writing end of the Inka Pen out of the base with a single motion, making it one of the easiest and most convenient pens you’ll ever find.
Worried about altitude, temperature, or other harsh conditions keeping you from writing? The Inka Pen uses a replaceable pressurized cartridge (similar to the Fisher Space Pen) that will write upside down on the top of Mount Everest if you really need it to.
Ultimate Geek Pen – $5
Geeks love multi-purpose gadgets. Give them a standard BIC pen and they’ll usually sigh and roll their eyes. However, if you hand them the Ultimate Geek Pen, they’ll marvel at a single pen that is also a laser pointer, fraud-detecting UV light, flashlight, and a stylus. This all-in-one solution is a great stocking stuffer, though don’t think you’ll get away with it as your primary gift, especially if the geek in question is close to you.
The Ultimate Geek Pen has a cheap construction, but the added tools actually do what they claim to do. The laser pointer is every bit as good as any other budget red pointer you would find in the check-out lane. The flashlight and UV light do their jobs very well. Probably the weakest point of this pen can be found in the actual pen function. The ball-point tip can be rough to write with, and the flexible arm for the flashlight is constantly getting in the way.
Still, if you’re looking for a pen that doesn’t cost a lot of money to give a geek in your life, this is a good candidate.
Fisher Space Pen – $20
Who wouldn’t want a pen designed to work in space? The Fisher Space Pen writes in virtually any environment, and looks incredible. Its two-part design allows you to tuck it away in your pocket, handbag, or some wallets without a problem. Once extended, the pen itself is comfortable and easy to write with.
My favorite thing about this pen in particular is how smooth it is to write with. You will be hard-pressed to find a smoother writing tip on a pen in its price range, and the replacement capsules can be found almost anywhere.
Swann 4 GB Pencam – $50
Imagine being able to take video from your pen. You can with the Swann Pencam. This elegant-looking pen is not only a stylish writing device, but a digital camcorder as well. You can record AVI video at 640×480 resolution with surprisingly good clarity for such a small video capture device. At 4 GB, you have roughly two hours of storage capability, making it one of the highest capacity devices of its class.
You might want to check with the local laws of your area before putting this little device to work. In any case, it makes a great stocking stuffer, and geeks are sure to love the James Bond appeal of such an extraordinarily sneaky device.
This pen makes a great gift for lawyers, pranksters, journalists, bloggers, vloggers, and anyone else who might be able to put this little electronic marvel to good use.
Bonus Tip: DIY
Any cheap pen can look a little geekier with the help of LEGO and a substance called Sugru. Even a delicate coating of super glue can do the trick of adding the head of a LEGO minifig to the back end of an otherwise boring pen or pencil. This is a great solution for kids that enjoy those crazy creature erasers, but can’t find a good Darth Vader or R2-D2.
There are also several great DIY designable pens that are made to be customized. You can usually find them at your local hobby store.
The act of writing may be taking a less active role in favor of keyboards and other electronic devices, but I believe it will be a long time before we would truly replace this fundamental element of civilized culture. Writing will always be a favorite pastime in my life — what about yours?