[NTLK] Newton's HWR [WAS: "Re: Newton reclassification"]

From: Lord Groundhog <LordGroundhog_at_gmail.com>
Date: Fri Apr 27 2007 - 20:09:04 EDT

~~~ On 2007/04/27 21:05, Steve Scotten at splicer@paroxysm.com wrote ~~~

> ARRRGH! I really must know how you people do it. I want the secret!
> ...
> So: how is it done? Please discuss.


Sorry in advance for the length of this.

And now first, 3 caveats: [a] I have an *hypothesis*, not any real
knowledge, but I suspect my hypothesis is pretty good in the absence of said
real knowledge (it's a bit like Jack Frost: good while you're waiting to
understand how the weather works); [b] I have little doubt that there are
folks here who really do know how it works and who could replace my "Jack
Frost" with real meteorology (whether they'll reply -- or even read this
thread -- is another matter); and [c] I'm only talking about cursive
writing, not printing on the Newton.

Second, keep in mind that as long and tedious as this is, it's probably a
load of rubbish disguised as a reasoned argument. :D

OK, my hypothesis is based on a wild guess that the people who designed the
HWR are approximately of my generation if not a little older. Here's my
preliminary reasoning (sorry it's so long) and the resultant construction of
a plausible though perhaps wrong interpretation of events:

1. I suspect my generation is nearly the last to have been drilled
rigorously in "penmanship"; i.e., in a system of cursive writing based upon
a carefully and coherently designed cursive alphabet which requires a fairly
high degree of standardization of the forms of the individual letters as
well as the correct ligatures (the ways for joining the letters). Our
particular cursive alphabet, and the cursive alphabet of several in the USA
at that time, was referred to in our school as the "Palmer" system, slightly
modified. It is simple and without unnecessary floruish, and clear with
very little ambiguity of forms. (I'm from the USA originally and I'd be
interested to hear from my compatriots over the age of about 50 as to their
experiences of this.)

2. I also suspect my generation is nearly the last to have been required not
only to learn said alphabet and practise it in twice weekly "penmanship
lessons" from 2nd grade onwards, but to use it in all our other lessons.
For example, I recall that teachers used to take marks off for poor
penmanship in all my other lessons. It was junior high before science and
maths teachers announced that we wouldn't lose marks for poor penmanship.
(Some years back I found a history term paper from 8th grade where a teacher
told me I'd gone from B+ to B- because of my "slovenly scrawl"; she should
have seen what it became!) It wasn't until high school that my English and
humanities teachers also relaxed the penmanship rules.

3. slovenly or not, the basic forms of my cursive writing have remained
essentially the Palmer script that was drilled into me from childhood. It
has a consistency and ease of writing that never left.

4. now here's the important bit. I suggest that the designers of the
Newton's HWR also were trained more or less diligently to write Palmer or
something similar, and whether unconsciously or consciously they modelled
the Newton's "ideal" of cursive writing on that.

5. it would follow from these things that anyone who by training, accident
or choice used a form of cursive writing that's largely similar to the
Newton's "ideal" -- and I think that will include an awful lot of us --
should find the Newt reads them fairly easily.

6. even after I lapsed into what teachers called my "doctor's scribble", one
thing that being drilled in penmanship gave me is a smooth, even rhythm of
writing. That stayed with me, and by observation I'd say the Newton
benefits from that hugely.

So, *if* all that is relevant, how to do it to make the Newton happy?
First, consistent letter-forms. The more variations on the same letter, the
harder for the Newt to learn your handwriting. (It sounds harder than it
is.) Second, a smooth, even rhythm and speed. I can't help thinking the
Newton notices and tries to interpret how we make our letter forms. Third,
experiment with the settings in preferences / handwriting recognition. In
particular, I found that by moving the spacing setting towards "closely
spaced" as far as it goes, I've gotten much better results. I write small,
so that figures. Also, in "options", take the time to go through "letter
shapes" and deselect the versions of each letter that you don't use. And
adjustments in how long you tell the Newton to wait before recognizing your
writing may help too.

Now in time I think that will give you better results than you seem to be
getting so far, especially with practice, but to be fair to the Newton it
worked really well for me right from the beginning, the first night I tried
out a friend's Newt set on "guest user". So the fine tuning of settings
just gave me even cleaner results than when my MP2100 was new to me.

Well, that's the outline of my hypothesis and how I apply it. Even if it's
dead wrong and it only serves to draw out of hiding the people who really
know and even if they shoot it down in flames, it's still useful, right?
All I can say is, the Newton works for me as though it were plugged into my
brain. Always has done. If my explanation isn't valid I'd like to know,
but whatever the truth is, I'll stick with enjoying the amazing Newton and
if necessary, count myself lucky.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

łAny sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from a NewtonPad.˛
            -- What Arthur C. Clarke meant to say

(With thanks to Chod Lang)

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
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Received on Fri Apr 27 20:09:13 2007

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