The Pen Was a Weapon

The old saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ had more literal meaning to the graphic designer 25 years ago. The Mac computer was new on the scene so analog tools like the technical pen (T-pen) were standard issue. Maintaining this integral piece of equipment was a high priority, so it didn’t take long before you had memorized its anatomy. Cleaning the T-pen was a ritual of sorts that varied little. Disassemble. Soak nib parts in alcohol. Reassemble.

Loading the cartridge with ink was its own art form and coaxing the ink into the nib required gentle lateral wrist movements (if you heard the nib click in its housing you had good ink flow). If the ink ever stopped flowing, only the prescribed lateral wrist agitation was recommended. Any violent vertical pumping almost guaranteed that ink was sprayed everywhere. If you were lucky it wasn’t all over the illustration you’d slaved over for days. As if maintaining one of these ‘weapons’ wasn’t enough, we were armed with seven of them! To this day, every time I choose a stroke thickness in an Adobe application I can’t help but think of the wretched T-pen.

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