Buy Yourself a Good Pen and a Scanner
I was recently inspired by @kepano's thread on the idea of "cost per smile," and wanted to write my own short piece on something similar. But first, some backstory:
A few years ago, I was browsing a Bay Area arts supply store whose name I forget. I ended up buying a Faber-Castell pencil that I loved. It was a pleasure to use about 80% of the time. Being the person that I am, I then decided to do countless hours of research into the best possible mechanical pencil. This led me down Reddit searches, through obscure forums, until I found the rOtring 600 0.35mm mechanical drafting pencil. I still use one today – it's been my daily driver for almost two years, and I don't think I could live without it. Possibly the best $30 I've ever spent.
This week, I also discovered an old ScanSnap ix500 scanner sitting unused in our basement. Being the person I am, I decided to try and get it working so I could digitize all my schoolwork. I was already using an iPad for most of my classes, so it seemed like a good addition to my setup. The scanner, being a 10-year-old Japanese product, was a delight to set up and worked immediately. The scanner features 2015-era OCR, which is good enough for typed text and laughable for anything handwritten. I then proceeded to spend three hours digitizing this year's schoolwork, feeling satisfied but also like I had lost something. While I can't stand the piles of paperwork given out by every single class, it felt like a funeral, albeit a late one, for my pencil.
Two months ago, during a college presentation at my school, Pomona College visited and let us keep their pens. It was incredible. I used the free pen so much in the next week that I completely ran out of ink, then emailed the admissions office asking where I could find a refill. They didn't know.
Today, I bought a fountain pen. I don't know if it's a good fountain pen – I bought it from one of those shops where the purpose is to get you to buy as many $30+ items as possible, all of which will sit in a drawer for the next 10 years untouched. My pen is plastic, German, and $25. I think I'm in love.
The post you're reading right now was written with my pen, on a $3 notebook from Target, scanned with my scanner, and transcribed, by hand, into raw HTML. Why? I've written before about love of good software – this philosophy even featured on my college applications – but I think the effects of good hardware are even more rewarding. Finding real-world objects that make your activities more enjoyable, well, they make you want to do those activities. Half the reason I'm writing this postright now is because I want to use my pen.
The moral? Find a good pen, a cheap notepad, and an old scanner. Then use them.