Right tool for the job.

I tend to research compulsively. It’s a habit/hobby, and what I love most about it is the ability to bump into seemingly unconnected topics that inspire my teaching and worldview.

One of the things that I run into is people who think or assume that going entirely digital with everything is the right thing to do. I disagree. I’m clearly a proponent of utilizing digital technology in classrooms, but I believe that there’s a correct tool for every job- and that you should use that tool whenever possible. Sometimes, that tool isn’t digital. There is something about pen on paper that for some tasks seems to trigger different neurons. Sometimes a wall covered in post-its works best. A whiteboard is still a useful tool.

I ended up reading a bunch about Seymour Cray, the designer and, arguably, godfather of supercomputers. He designed some of that fastest computers in the world in the eighties and early nineties. I should note here that I’ve always been entranced by Crays. While other kids had sports car and football posters on the walls of their rooms, I had pictures of supercomputers and bicycles (a Bottechia Cronostrada, if you’re interested). As I read about how he designed, I stumbled across the following excerpt from Wikipedia:

When asked what kind of CAD tools he used for the Cray-1, Cray said that he liked #3 pencils with quad paper pads. Cray recommended using the backs of the pages so that the lines were not so dominant. When he was told that Apple Computer had just bought a Cray to help design the next Apple Macintosh, Cray commented that he had just bought a Macintosh to design the next Cray.

And there it is- some of the fastest computers of their day were designed with a #3 pencil on quad paper. Sometimes, it’s the right tool for you that matters.