There was an article in The Guardian by Umberto Eco, On the Lost Art of Handwriting. It's no longer available, but one of the things Eco says is that the crisis with handwriting "began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality."
I don't particularly like ballpoint pens, but this is pretty idiotic. The same can be said for fountain pens. And what does smudging have to with the absence "of soul or personality." There are those who would say that the should is nothing but a smudge. While I would not agree to such a claim either—"soul" is at the very least a coherent concept—I have no idea why writing with a ballpoint pen lacks soul or personality. For all I know, some good novels may have been written with ballpoint pens. And what about roller balls? How much soul do they impart to writing?
There were apparently other interesting claims in the article, like the one that handwriting as opposed to writing with the keyboard slows you down and thus facilitates thinking. Too bad I no longer have access to this morsel of wisdom by my favorite Italian author.
1. This appears to be it: "The art of handwriting teaches us to control our hands and encourages hand-eye coordination.... [it]obliges us to compose the phrase mentally before writing it down. Thanks to the resistance of pen and paper, it does make one slow down and think. Many writers, though accustomed to writing on the computer, would sometimes prefer even to impress letters on a clay tablet, just so they could think with greater calm." Yes, clay tablets are the way to go ... obviously. "Writing by hand obliges us to compose the phrase mentally before writing it down"? Not my experience, and what about free writing?