At one time, writing was very difficult. The pen (such as a quill), ink and paper (skin, papyrus, etc.) all had to be prepared by someone before the writing could begin. Often a scribe was skilled in developing his own writing materials. Once the materials were ready, the actual writing itself was not a simple task, often taking hours to compose a single piece of correspondence.
Despite all of these difficulties, letters were as the example below – a familiar request for money by two brothers away at school.
To their very dear and respected parents M. Martre, knight, and M. his wife, M. and N., their sons, send greetings and filial obedience. This is to inform you that, by divine mercy, we are living in good health in the city of Orleans and are devoting ourselves wholly to study, mindful of the words of Cato, “To know anything is praiseworthy,” etc. We occupy a good and comely dwelling, next door but one to the schools and market-place, so that we can go to school every day without wetting our feet. We have also good companions in the house with us, well advanced in their studies and of excellent habits-an advantage which we as well appreciate, for as the Psalmist says, “With an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright,” etc. Wherefore lest production cease from lack of material, we beg your paternity to send us by the bearer, B., money for buying parchment, ink, a desk, and the other things which we need, in sufficient amount that we may suffer no want on your account (God forbid!) but finish our studies and return home with honor. The bearer will also take charge of the shoes and stockings which you have to send us, and any news as well.
Now, with mass literacy, a wide variety of easy writing options and instant delivery of communications the same request often looks like:
I nEd som monE 4 supplies
A paradox of the human condition – the easier it is to do something, the less effort is made. Text messaging constructs would have been more useful to a medieval scribe.
What other activities will shrink in effort as the span of technology grows?