Is the ultimate goal of technology to seem as if it is not technology at all? This revolutionary (or possibly counter-revolutionary) product from Norway, which replicates to an uncanny degree a pad of paper and a pencil (or pen or brush), set me thinking about this.
There is other tech masquerading as non-tech: the hyper-niche Freewrite machine from New York, which appears to be an old-fashioned portable typewriter but is, in fact, a word processor; and virtual reality, which, although it involves a techie-looking headset, aims to convince us we are in a real world. I might also mention an invention yet to be invented other than in my dreams: a device that records images from your own eyes – a non-camera camera.
The Norwegian pretend-paper tablet is called the ReMarkable and I bought it when it was being crowdfunded rather than waiting for a sample. The ReMarkable didn’t so much speak to as shout at me when I saw it on social media. The hub of my working life has always been an A4 paper notebook. In this I write all my to-do lists and thoughts. A pad lasts about 18 months and I have kept them from as far back as the late 1970s. I’ve tried moving the whole, rickety idea to Word, but the pads have a flexibility and speed that nothing else rivals. Until now.
I know writing on tablets is nothing new; I also know it’s a technology that has proved difficult to perfect. I am similarly aware that a perfect electronic notebook would do character recognition and be electronically searchable, which the ReMarkable is not. But my writing is so bad and inconsistent that no machine, not even a so-called AI, could ever read it. So two closely related, basic things would determine whether the ReMarkable was my dream notepad. Would it feel exactly the same as handwriting on real paper? And would the irritating lag you experience on stylus‑equipped tablets be eliminated?
The answer to both questions is about 97 per cent yes. It’s so close to the real deal that I think they’ve nailed it. The 10.3in E Ink screen is gloriously matte and paper-like. The pen works near perfectly. You can also change it into a variety of writing instruments. Oh, and you can back up your documents on the cloud and download them on to a laptop or a phone, etc.
There was, for me, something truly odd, too. I have no drawing ability, but discovered that with the ReMarkable I could draw quite well. Don’t understand why. But if you sketch a lot, you will also love this.