Is the PIN really mightier than the PEN?

I heard an interview this week on CBC Radio’s Q that really caught my attention.  Are we facing the death of the signature in today’s world of pin codes and electronic signature capture pads?  The conclusion was, more or less, yes: “The pin is mightier than the pen.”

Now, as I’m sure many of you can guess, I tend to be a traditionalist, or rather a diehard romantic, when it comes to questions such as these.  Of course I was absolutely horrified at the idea of never again being able to sign my name!  In fact, I’ve recently been resenting that very fact that I rarely use my signature anymore!  Instead I’m stuck punching in the same combination of digits every time I whip out my visa.  No matter how many times I practice, it doesn’t get any cooler, or creative, or sophisticated; those silly little plastic keys give me nothing to work with.

My signature, on the other hand, has probably been written as many times as  words like “the” or “and” over the course of my academic education.  (Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration…)  What better way to pass long, boring hours in class without recourse to anything but paper and pen?  I signed profusely in the margins of every notebook, sometimes labeling each with its particular stylistic name that I’d invented.  I clearly remember the fascination with which I studied the signatures of my Italian classmates while on student exchange.  They shaped their A’s completely differently, so I adjusted my signature for the time I was there in order to be more Italian!

Then, as most girls can likely relate to, I practiced signing my name with the last name of whatever boy I happened to be in love with at the time.  By the time I married Mr. Martinko, I’d probably signed my future name almost as many times as he’d signed it in his entire life!  I’ll also confess that I’ve judged men by their signatures while on first dates.  They’d likely be shocked to know how I scrutinized that scrawl on the cheque, and the ease – or tension – with which they signed.  A manly man signed with an effortlessness that flowed like melted butter.  Definitely attractive!

Q’s guest David Wheeler pointed out that good old paper ‘n pen signatures allow for 5 times more fraud than pin codes, and I suppose that’s a good argument for moving in that direction.  But what about the fun kind of forgery?!  Don’t bite off my head too quickly.  I’m just saying that one of my greatest April Fool’s tricks was forging the signature of one of my dad’s clients onto a fake letter.  It was a highly successful trick for a nine-year-old, and one that wouldn’t have been possible if I’d been trying to forge a pin code.

Alas!  Who knows what will become of the signature, be it exquisitely perfect or wildly illegible.  But I do believe that people are firmly enough attached to the art of signing one’s name that it will not become completely obsolete – at least I hope not.  So tell me: am I the only one in the world who feels this way?  Do you folks like your pin codes or your pen marks?

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4 thoughts on “Is the PIN really mightier than the PEN?

  1. I’m a pen mark kind of a girl. I heard that interview too, on my way to my stretch class and thought, I haven’t signed my name yet this calendar year. Then when I got to my class – there was a sheet to sign I which I did happily. As a side bar, I also think that computers are ruining penmanship. My handwriting has deteriorated into a mess, not that it was ever great to begin with, but it was mine.

  2. Re: Kelly’s comment – I second the penmanship / penwomanship / penpersonship point. That’s why I bought a Moleskine! Once I started not being able to read my own writing, I knew it was time to start practicing… 😛

    Great article babe!

  3. I unfortunately don’t like my handwriting and/or my signature. When I used to take phone messages, I would have to re-write them every time and then people still said: “Couldn’t you write more legible?”

  4. I’m so glad I’m not the only girl that was obsessed with signing my future husbands name! If Mike knew how many times I signed my new name before we got married, he would be shocked.
    Great article, Kath!

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