Recently an srticle in the Chronicle of Higher Education (August 15, 2007) expressed some cocerns on this matter, saying how different it would have been if Shakespeare had composed his works on a computer.
From paper and printing press to mechanical and electric typewriters, every writing-related invention has had impacts on authors. This piece has some fascinating reflections on the impact of computers on literature and authorship. But now a few reactions:It seems to me that the vast majority of the people who enjoy Shakespeare are not that interested in his original drafts. Were there or were there not other versions of <to be or not to be> ? That is seldom the question. The bard may well have named Hamlet as Halmet the Prince of Scotland making something rotten in that country. Or did he first call the ill-starred lovers Ramses and Augusta? Would that have made any difference in our appreciation of Shakespeare? Most of us are interested in the final version, not in its failed or faltering drafts. So I am unable to grasp the importance of the concerns expressed. To authors, the value of the computer lies in the ease of editing manuscripts. Retaining rough drafts may be interesting for a future-doctoral students or literary historians in search of new topics, but authors may oblige or not with such trains of one’s tentative efforts at creative compositions, irrespective of whether they use paper and pencil, an old mechanical typewriter or a modern DELL using Vista.The cyber-permanence of computerized documents is useful primarily in keeping records of exchanges: criminal or casual, sinful or innocuous, secretive or sinister, and these could come to light when one is reminiscing about one’s own past, or if and when the long arm of the law probes into the questionable transactions of an individual held suspect in a socially unsavory deed .