Pencil – Digital

18 01 2016
Tools of yesteryear

Tools of yesteryear



Everything you see in this photo was bought in Zimbabwe in the past three months. They have changed little since I was a child, new at school, in 1966.

eraserThe eraser (rubber in this part of the world) is the one item that has changed a bit. The early ones that I remember were made of a softish rubber that was adept at smudging the pencil marks and destroying the paper. Some were truly appalling and broke and crumbled very easily. They made effective missiles when the teacher was out and more than a few got bitten in half just to see the teeth marks. This one is made of a soft plastic and is very effective. I cannot remember when this type appeared, possibly in the mid 1970s.

sharpenerThe sharpener I  bought yesterday in a local supermarket. It has not changed in my memory. The originals were metal like this one and then they became plastic. This is a genuine Faber-Castell but made in India. There is nothing quite a satisfying as a well-sharpened pencil. A pen knife works of course and when the teacher was out we used to sneak to the front of the class and use her hand cranked sharpener which to us was very high tech and risky behaviour too!

pencilsAh yes, the humble pencil. How I desired these genuine Staedtler HBs as a child. Black and red – definitely boys’ colours (most pencils are apparently yellow in the USA). Of course they had German quality in what was definitely an era of “Japanese Junk” (how that has changed).

The first wood cased graphite pencils probably originated in England around 1564. Nuremberg, Germany was the birthplace of the first mass-produced pencils in 1662 and is still the home of Staedtler, Faber-Castell and Lyra. Now of course, graphite has found new fame as a source of graphene – a layer of carbon one atom thick. It has all sorts of interesting properties in the field of electronics and is easily made. Anyone who has used a graphite pencil (lead is a misnomer these days though the originals were made of lead) had made graphene.

Paper. Amazing stuff. Paper as we know it dates back to around 105 A.D. in China though papyrus, from which the word is derived, dates back to the third millennium BC in Egypt. Mostly we write on it in ballpoint pen though even that is under threat and nowhere more so than at my local ZIMRA tax office. I am not surprised; they must have collected container loads of the stuff in the course of a year and now it’s all gone digital. Or that’s the plan. Every year one has to get tax clearance to import or export goods. In the past this has meant standing in long queues at this time of year and finally getting the all important ITF263 meaning one’s tax payments are in order and debtors don’t need to deduct 10% of their payment if one doesn’t have it. This 10% is then remitted directly to the tax office – in theory. It can then be deducted from tax owed.

I dread this time of the year but my book keeper told me that it had to be done online. I tried to register and got a message “We’ve had a technical problem but don’t worry, we still have your details…”. Right. Then I couldn’t re-register, or login or do anything. So after much pondering I used another email, my passport as an ID (we normally use ID cards for these purposes) and I was in. A quick visit to the ZIMRA tax office in town and I had my one off password valid for 24 hours. I took a deep breath, mustered up some negativity and applied for the ITF263. An hour later there it was, all ready to be downloaded and printed. The paperless office was a little closer.

I know that a few years ago the local branch of the International School announced it was going paperless. Whether this has actually happened I don’t know. What it means for the ancient art of writing is anyone’s guess. Are they really going to produce generations of students who cannot write? And will they know when they pick up the stylus of their digital device they are actually picking up the ancient Roman originator of the humble wooden pencil? It will be in effect a true digital pencil!







One response

1 06 2016
how to burn fat during menopause

how to burn fat during menopause

Pencil – Digital | Zimbabwe Absurdity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: