doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Whatever happened to …

… pens?

From the “Whatever happened to …” Padlet comes this suggestion.

How many of us have multiple devices, but no pen? Or even the excitement over getting fancy pens (like the Cross one)? Then there’s the fact that adults spend a lot to time not using a pen, but most kids still spend the majority of time in the classroom using a pencil or pen. What does this say about how we’re preparing kids for their current reality? Is there a good balance, and what is it?

This was posted anonymously so I can’t give credit. I can tell you that I am a pen hoarder. As a result of the cleaning around here, I have put most of the excess pens and pencils from my desk into holders.

Hmmm. If I hadn’t put them back on the shelf, I’d retake the picture without the pencils that kind of stand out. In the front, you can see a couple of wooden handcrafted pens and cases that I received as gifts from a couple of friends. On the bookshelf behind me, I have a couple more containers and my prized Shaeffer White Dot and Waterman Pen/Pencils sets. Do you see my “original” iPod making a cameo? Doug never gets rid of anything.

This is what remains after culling the herd. I had about double this until I gave them the scribble test on an old sheet of paper and got rid of the dry ones. This isn’t the only place where you’ll find a pen collection in this house. We have similar collections in my wife’s desk and on the kitchen counter where we also accumulate mail. I also have a few pens in the console of my car to use when I go to the races for handicapping purposes. Those little pencils just don’t cut it.

Oh, and a couple in my computer bag including my Livescribe Echo Smartpen.

Do I use them all?

Of course not. Like the dustbunnies that I got rid of, they just accumulate and multiply. I’m bad at getting complimentary pens at hotels and, of course, swag from exhibitors at conferences. It just seems like bad manners not to take them when offered. And, despite all this – do you know how much Shaeffer, Waterman, and Livescribe pens actually cost? – when I have to sign a cheque or a birthday card, I grab the closest BIC pen and scribble something that might not hold up as evidence in a court case. (Although I do add a little something that makes my signature unique.)

For a Sunday, care to pen – err – keyboard your thoughts?

  • look around you where you’re sitting. How many pens are within easy reach?
  • do you own an expensive pen/pencil set?
  • have you ever used a pen with gel ink for smoother writing?
  • do you use the standard blue or do you have red, black, green pens?
  • are you a collector of pens from various places? i.e. conferences, workshops, hotels
  • more and more everything that we do is done via keyboard – what regular activities do you do that absolutely requires a pen?
  • have you ever had a pen explode on you? in a purse, shirt pocket
  • have you ever ripped apart a pen to see what that little ball actually looks like? (asking for a friend)
  • how functional to you are those pens that come with a little rope to wrap around your neck so that it’s always available?

Everyone has a pen story. Please share yours in the comments below. And, if you have an idea for a future post, please add it to the Padlet.

This post originated on:

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.


12 responses to “Whatever happened to …”

  1. Doug, the funny thing is that I don’t think I wrote this Padlet suggestion, but it describes me perfectly. I never have a pen, and when I do, I lose it. Apparently a Sharpie is the closest thing I could find to a pen at home to use in my disorganized desk space for our online classroom: Not sure it counts as a pen, but it does do the job. Even in our classroom, I’m likely to find a handful of markers and crayons, but no pen. Since I always need to borrow a pen for something, I also seem to become one of those “perpetual pen thieves.” 🙂 Never intentionally, but it happens regardless. You’d think with the number of pens I’ve stolen that I could find one more regularly. Apparently not. I’m very interested in hearing other people’s pen stories, and grateful to the person that suggested this topic that captures my regular inner pen monologue. 🙂



    1. I have a collection of Sharpies and Sharpie wanna-bes as well. I find that I need a heavier paper to stop them from bleeding through.


  2. When younger I tried to use a nice fountain pen but being a southpaw killed that idea.

    Also went through some nice pens but now go with cheap Muji pens which I keep all around.

    I have, however become a pencil snob – big belliever in the Palomino Blackwing 602.


    1. I’d never heard of this type of pencil, Mike, so I clicked through. I got sticker shock until I realized it was a pack of 12. Still, it’s in American dollars…

      My favourite pen was a staedtler mechanical pencil.


  3. […] When I wake Sunday mornings I look forward to reading Doug Peterson’s, “Whatever happened to…” This morning, Doug pose the question about  ….pens.  […]


  4. Thanks, Doug.

    I have my favourite pens, both a black and blue onyx fine uniball pen.

    Came home from school on our extended March Break, with our pens. Luckily in our 15 minute rush back into the school, I was able to grab a few of my favourites.

    I prefer pens that are thinner. The newer styles are a thicker body, not so comfy.

    Love the idea we all have our favourite pens,



  5. Alfred Thompson Avatar
    Alfred Thompson

    I used to wander around my computer lab at school and pick up pens that students left behind. I used to get lots of pens that way. And of course give them out to students who needed a pen. This past year there were almost no pens left behind. It seems that at my school more and more work is being done directly on computers and other devices and there is less pen and paper work.


  6. Within easy reach where I sit at my desk top computer: 3 pens, 1 pencil. We have two other pencil/pen/marker/scissor holders in the house — one jar on another desk and another by the landline phone on the kitchen counter 🙂 I prefer black ink, so I have that pen handy on a notepad (often a to-do list) where I can find it. Sometimes I still draft a blog post with pen on paper (often messy scribbled down thoughts). I have a couple of pens in my purse and in my work bag, and 1 in the car glove box. I guess I am never too far from pens! I am not a big collector though. Our grocery list is still kept up with pen and notepad attached to a magnetic board.

    Great topic! You are right — everyone has a pen story!


  7. […] Sunday –  Whatever happened to … pens? […]


  8. […] Whatever happened to … – doug — off the record […]


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  10. […] scratching suggestions out, modifying them, and trying again, are all part of the process. With a pencil, does the eraser make us forget about those previous mistakes: increasing our chances of making […]


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