Monday, 24 July 2000
I chop unions with a Chinese chopping-knife. My bike's a rattling mudguard I fix with a bolt, ring and a female screw. Nutmeg oil is great for small skin problems. Matches are very handy to make fire. But my favourite tool has to be a pencil. What a marvellous tool indeed.

A pencil is light, portable, available everywhere, cheap, simple to use, and very versatile. I use it to write courses, this Nut's Weekly, scribble appointments into my agenda, design databases with it, draw graphs and screen designs. So, long live the pencil!

But... It's not easy to chop onions with a pencil. Fixing a mudguard with one is quite troublesome too. It doesn't help against skin problems and I still fail to make fire with it. So, even a pencil has it's limitations.

It's fashion to 'integrate' things. I' quite sceptic about it. Of course, somebody with just a hammer sees the whole as a nail. But I don't mean that kind of simplification. It's the swiss-army knife ( approach that I'm firmly opposed to. I would prefer a set of fine tools rather than a compressed compromise.

A web browser is nice for surfing the web. A file manager is nice for organising files. An FTP program ( is perfect to upload files.

Please let me type stories with a text processor, aim for pixels with good old Paint, edit pictures with Paint Shop Pro (, model with ERD's, develop pure OO applications with Smalltalk, create simple E-Commerce sites with PHP, and Java for the real heavy duty stuff.

Every tool it's own application

I don't need a paint toolbar in a text processor, no web browse facility in a file manager, no email program that can start all kinds of creepy viruses.
pencil Ask me what should be integrated and I'll say: keyboard, mouse and screen. It's sheer madness that I had to learn how to type blindly with 10 fingers before I could truly handle a computer.

Why should I simultaneously concentrate on keyboard, and screen, and mouse, and listen to possible beeps? Have you ever watched a beginner stumble with eye-hand coordination to get the mouse in position? Go and get lost.

The point of the pencil touches the paper. My eyes and hand are focused to the same place.

One focus.

My mind can concentrate on creative writing, in stead of the tool.

For the IT folks among you: keep the pencil in mind. Create simple applications, tailored for the specific tasks of your user. Users are entitled to good tools.

Till next week!