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Revenge of the Paper

It all started with my desire to store useful knowledge in a portable, future proof locker - so that an older version of myself could revisit this knowledge repository and avoid rediscovery. In the fag end of 2013, I was celebrating Digital Notebooks for all the claps it truely deserved. Today, in a sequel to that post, Paper Notebooks fight back. Would paper have the last laugh?

For most of my engineering career until recently, I was developing software/firmware. When I was introduced to digital notekeeping on Evernote (and later Simplenote), I had gone all nuts - happily jumping around my house. It was perfectly what I wanted for maintaining my notes back then.

Knowledge repositories for Software Engineering requires mainly text. Yup it does require visual aids - state machine diagrams, flowcharts etc., but these are standard visuals. Tools such as GraphViz can take in text and autogenerate these images. Piece of cake. So back when I was primarily writing code and using digital notebooks for building my knowledge repository, I was something like this

Happy I

Then I got all excited about Electronics. As always, I badly wanted to document my assimilated knowledge before it evaporated (Fun Fact - I have a terribly small memory buffer). Digital Notebooks were just not helping me out this time round. I had to laboriously create circuits using tablets and styluses. Creating images on digital tablets is either very difficult, or I have particularly poor motor skills. I can make crappy stick figures on these tablets ... but making circuits is a one day exercise. Plus, because of my fundamental dislike for rich text format, I had to use Markdown and render images - which meant that I had to keep toggling between text and the rendered page; interrupting my thought flow and frustrating me big time. This just didn't seem the right way to build a knowledge repository! Essentially, I looked like this

Troubled I

Recently, with my new job, I kick started my career into industrial research. Now, there were shit loads of diagrams - all kinds of morphology. For a few days, I very accurately looked like this:

Angry I

Allright that might be a slight exagerration, but you get the point. With all my love for digital notebooks, I just couldn't resist the temptation for the touch of paper - that indescribable freedom which only a paper and pen can give. In early July, I cheated on the digital world - and bought myself these wonderful creation of mankind

Paper Notebooks

The secret plan is to keep jotting down notes in these notebooks, and eventually scan them out as a backup.

Here is the verdict: The software fellow in me is still happy with digital notebooks; but a large part of me has now fallen for the classic paper notebooks. Do share your experience as well!


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