December 16, 2008 A simple development of the pen might make life easier for almost one in six people on the planet. From birth, molly dookers have a built-in handicap compared to right-handers because the world is configured for right-handed people. Lefties often appear awkward because they’re forced to use tools configured for a right hand preference. Interestingly, right-handers display even more awkwardness using left handed tools than lefthanders do using right handed tools. The pen is one of humankind’s most important tools, and regarded by many as even mightier than the sword, so this is an important development for a lot of people.
There are a billion people with a preference for using their left hand for a variety of tasks and despite the aforementioned handicap of living in a right-hand configured world, there have been some spectacularly successful lefties in every field of endeavour. Four of the last six Presidents of the United States have been left handed and President elect Barack Obama is also left handed, as was his presidential opponent John McCain. In almost all cultures, left handers have defied the odds in achieving their goals because almost every tool they use should work exactly the opposite to how it is. Alexander the Great, Julius Ceasar and Napoleon Bonaparte were left handed.
The primary communication function of writing is problematic in the extreme for leftie were once more extreme than now, as most cultures write left-to-right so lefties can’t easily see the tip of the pen and their hand then drags over the just-applied ink. A large part of the success of the biro was its quick drying solution to the smudging problem. Heaven knows the difficulties Leonardo Da Vinci, Aristotle, Michelangelo and Mozart must have encountered attempting the scripts of their day with a quill and ink. Some cultures, in a well-meaning but misguided attempt to make sense of the world, forced lefties to be right-handed. It still happens, across the world, despite an overwhelming amount of understanding showing that’s not a good idea because it causes needless suffering!
Over the centuries, left-handed writers have adopted a number of styles to enable them to see what they are writing. These include ‘the hook’ where the hand is hooked at the wrist, ‘the underwriter’ where the page is positioned at different angles and ‘the fist’ where people who hold the pen gripped it in a fist. These writing styles often caused the aches and pains we now know as repetitive strain, in the wrists and neck – but the human being adapts like no other thanks to our extraordinary problem solving abilities and lefties have been suffering quietly for long time.
Slowly formed, sloping letters. Messy, smudged presentation. Reversed d's and b's, p's and q's ... are all part of the left hander's nightmare of learning to write in childhood.
That is until now – as British inventors Mike Deacon and Tony Hemmings from M.A.D. Associates Ltd, have created the Swan Neck Pen, which has been specifically designed to make writing simple and smooth for left-handers.
The Swan Neck Pen is an extremely simple design, which incorporates a patented S bend neck and ergonomic grip, which makes it easy for left-handers to pick up and write comfortably, straight away.
The concept for the Swan Neck pen evolved following the difficulties faced by Tony’s left-handed daughter Amy, when she started school. Tony said, “Amy was very excited about going to school but she soon found that writing was difficult and she was slower than other children. Some of the pupils even made fun of the way she held the pen in her fist. Consequently, Amy started to become withdrawn and very unhappy.”
So inventor Mike set about finding a solution to the problem and he spent several weeks in his workshop bending and melting ordinary pens, to try to find just the right angle for the nib and grip. When they finally hit upon a suitable prototype, a friend, Dillon Sansom, produced a sample which they gave to Amy to try and they were amazed at her response. Mike said, “We put the pen in front of Amy and she immediately picked it up and started writing easily and comfortably, as if she had never had a problem. It was a miracle for us and a very emotional time for everyone.” Amy now uses a Swan Neck Pen all the time at school and loves going to her lessons. Many of the other children in her class have asked for one of the ‘cool’ pens too, as they can be used as easily by right and left-handed writers.
Following Amy’s success with the pen, Tony and his wife Heather were keen to make the pen available to others and they decided to invest their own money into its production. After many months, the Swan Neck Pen is now in full production with a UK manufacturer and it is available in either bright pink or yellow plastic, which is ideal for children, or as a more sophisticated Aluminium model.
Although the pen has only just been launched there has already been considerable public interest. Tony said, “We have been absolutely amazed by the interest, we had no idea that so many left-handers were struggling. It is not just in the UK, as there are over one billion left-handed people around the world who would benefit from this pen. What is doubly exciting for us is that we have realized there is also a massive market for right-handers who write from right to left, as in Arabic or in some Asian languages. The pen is perfect for them too as it enables them to see what they are writing.”
Mike concluded, “Our dream is to get the Swan Neck Pen as standard issue in all primary schools, as it can be used as easily by both left and right-handed writers. This would be the birth of a new era, where all left-handed children can use the same pen as right- handed children and learn to write with ease. We hope this will finally put an end to any stigma associated with being left-handed.”
The Swan Neck Pen is available at £2.49 in (pink or yellow) plastic or £9.99 for the aluminium version. An educational discount is available for schools and you can buy on-line here.
Swan Neck Pens are also ideal for right handers needing to write 'right to left' - for example in Arabic or Asian languages. The mirrored design solves 'cover up', speed, smudging and posture problems for 'right to left' writers just as effectively.