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MIT student blogger Snively '11

Livescribe’s Pulse Pen by Snively '11

AKA, the "Magic Pen"

‘sup yall? Sorry I haven’t blogged lately. The truth? I’ve been enjoying the laziest IAP I can muster. I sleep until at least noon every day, I’m not registered for any classes until next week, and I have absolutely no commitments. Last year I was overzealous and did the typical MIT “Look at at all this free time I have! I’m going to fill it to the brim with awesome stuff. . . .wait . . . .now I’m busier than I was all semester! AHHHHHH!” No, this IAP I’m very much not busy, and it is wonderful.

A flashback to a previous entry is probably a good way to begin this one. Remember when I was a contestant in a blogging scholarship a while back? In the end I got a very commanding 4th place out of 20, and I couldn’t have done it without all your help. I feel kind of guilty begging for so many votes, but in the end it all worked out (I hope!). My prize was $100 sent via PayPal the day right after the contest ended. Woo! $100! One of my charms is that I have absolutely no responsibility when it comes to money. If I have it, I spend it. Ask anybody who lives with me, I’m pretty awful. I have an R2-D2 trashcan that cost quite a bit of money, I went out and impulse bought a new Macbook, same with a pair of roller blades, I went out and got a hamster last week, and I’ve got enough geek points built up to get some of the cool expensive stuff (if I didn’t still want to save them up!). The point is, $100 of prize money wasn’t going to last very long.

I was surfing Engadget the day or two after getting the money and saw an ad for some smart pen, something called the “Pulse Smart Pen.” I did something I don’t usually do and I clicked the ad.

I’m generally pretty skeptical of devices that seem “magical,” i.e. they do things that I don’t understand and employ technology that boggles the mind. This pen fit into that category. Supposedly, it remembers everything you write and syncs it to your computer to be used later in a digital format. It also records whatever is being said and maps it to the notes you’re taking. All it takes is a tap on a word you’ve written to hear what was being said when you wrote it.

When I was researching laptops for MIT I was dead set on getting a tablet. I researched tablets more than anything I’d ever researched before. I was e-mailing execs, MIT profs, reading reviews, and printing dozens of pages of fact sheets. In the end, it just wasn’t meant to be, the graphics cards weren’t powerful enough, but I still mourned the loss of being able to take notes on a computer screen and have a digital copy of everything. If this pen did what it said it could, then it may be the answer to my problems.

I wasn’t willing to plop down $150 on a pen that was gimmicky though, so I did some homework. Step one when researching technology,

Ok, this is a good sign. Next was PCWorld,

Ok, also good. I continued looking around and realized that everybody said this pen did exactly what it said it did, and it did it well. It was decided, my $100 blog scholarship money would go towards this new pen. Lucky for me, MIT’s bookstore sells these things (I remember seeing the display at the beginning of the semester and scoffing. Oops), so I headed over to the Coop, slapped down the dough, and walked out with a new toy.

This pen, hands down, is the most amazing and potentially beneficial note-taking tool I’ve ever seen in my life. Everybody I’ve shown it to seems to think so as well. My parents think it will become the standard writing tool of almost all students within the next couple of years. No, seriously, I sound like a commercial, but enough of you asked about this thing in Chris’s entry that I’m going to shamelessly plug this pen because, frankly, I believe it’s an amazing tool for this place (MIT) and your life would be improved if you got one. Skeptical? Good. Let me change your mind.

Here’s the important stuff that you get in your box. You get:

1) A Pulse Smart Pen
2) A notebook with special dot-matrix paper
3) A dock for the pen
4) Headphones

You’ll notice that the pen has a little screen on it. The picture is too small, but it’s currently displaying the time, its default display.

This next bit of explanation is better actually demoed by a human being than by pictures and text, so I’ve decided to make some little videos for you.

Have you ever noticed how weird it is to hear yourself recorded or on video? Right, anyway, moving on. People have asked “Why not just use a tablet and a microphone?” That’s a totally legitimate question, and the answer is that you could. Some benefits, however, to the pen are that you have two copies, paper and digital, where as with a tablet you just have one copy. Also, tablets cost WAY more than $150!

“How’s the battery life?”
I can go all day without having to recharge the battery. It’ll last for a day and will charge when the pen is docked.

“I want to be able to search my notes and convert them to text!”
Sure, go ahead. There’s handwriting recognition software that you can use for a free 30-day trial or buy for about ~$25.00. There is built-in handwriting recognition as well, allowing you to search your handwritten notes for specific words that you may have written.

“Well it’s toast if it runs out of ink.”
Nope. Replaceable ink cartridges included and for sale.

“This seems too good to be true.”
Seems that way, doesn’t it? I think this is one of those rare cases where you are actually buying exactly what they say you are buying. In fact, there are even a bunch of MIT students that work for Livescribe and worked on this pen.

I used my pen for the last 3 weeks of class and have to say, I’ve enjoyed it very much. I’ve even used it to answer a comment question or two in previous entries (remember when I posted my 2.005 final review outline?

Check out the Livescribe website for more details, but seriously consider getting this pen. No, you don’t need it, but it’s so nice! And it actually does what it says it does. Almost everybody I’ve shown it to in person has decided to get one (ahem, Chris) and everybody I’ve talked to who has one loves it.

Ta-ta for now, I’m getting back to doing nothing during my IAP! Oh, and keep this coming Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday open because it’s Mystery Hunt time and I’ll be publishing some puzzles for you guys to help with!

44 responses to “Livescribe’s Pulse Pen”

  1. Anonymous says:

    hah. the infamous pen.

  2. ar says:

    hahaha that looks awesome man!

  3. The pen sounds really cool!

    But here’s a question –

    I’ve found that pens that require me to put a lot of pressure on the tip cause my hand to tire faster, so I found a type of pen that has a nifty ink flow mechanism that causes the ink to flow out of the pen with the lightest pressure on the page.

    Example of a bad pen (for note taking, otherwise its awesome): Bic pens.

    The good pens: Uni-ball fine pens.

    How would you rate the Livescribe pen in terms of how hard you need to press on the page to get it to write?

    …Also, how much did your tablet cost? Is an Intuos? I have an Intuos2 one and am trying to see what new features Intuos3 has that mine doesn’t and if they’re worth the cost.

  4. Kam says:

    Isn’t 0.5GB/notebook pretty bad considering that you have 4 classes?

  5. Tree says:

    Hm. Yeah that makes more sense; I was just so awed by it.
    But they don’t ship out of the US :S

  6. Holy cow, your tablet is huge! Mine’s a midget, like half of a textbook, and I had to beg my mom for it. I still cling to my jerky CD player and can’t get a driver’s license because I can’t afford insurance.

    I don’t even have a cellphone x.x

  7. anonymous says:

    You should receive an endorsement fee from LiveScribe for this blog. That could be a new source of funding for college – endorsement of products that make college life easier. You could be like Michael Phelps with endorsement contracts making you millions!

  8. Stacy says:

    Congrats on the contest.

    I’m smitten with that pen now. I definitely have to get one for college.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Moleskine is pronounced “molay-skeen-ay.”

  10. Anonymous says:

    i had to click that ad when i saw it too. a bit expensive for me, though… =/
    is it a ballpoint pen or a gel-ink one (like uniball/pilot) or…?

  11. Anonymous says:

    also i wonder if OCW has considered how much these things might help to get courses up

  12. Anonymous says:

    I have one too!!!!

    YIPEE, my pen is famous.

  13. Anonymous says:

    you guys should check out this article on MIT and the death of lecture style 8.01.

  14. katie '13 says:

    so i was reading about HASS classes, and i have a question.

    if i get “CI-HW required” when i take the FEE, am i allowed to take a CI-H course in addition to a CI-HW course my first semester? cause i really want to take linguistics, which is CI-H.

  15. Snively says:

    Mmmmmm. TEAL sucks, I think the NYTimes downplayed how much students absolutely loathe it. This article does not come as good news. Thanks for the find though, I’ve forwarded it on to all the necessary groups.

    @Katie ’13
    I’d ask Chris Su, he’s the resident blogger HASS expert. I have no idea.

  16. Banerjee says:

    HEY!! Nice post, and well done on the 4th place!!!!!

  17. Ngozi '13 says:

    Wow, Snively! Lol, for some reason, I thought your voice was of a higher pitch. XD

    Wow, the people at Livescribe are probably extremely happy they’ve got MIT students endorsing their product. smile Awesome.

    Also, did I see Jingle All the Way down there on your dorm room floor? Very good taste. Lol.

  18. Tree says:

    This IS the Magic Pen! This is so BEYOND cool.

    Btw, are you allowed to use it in an exam?

  19. Matt says:

    This pen rocks. I’ve had one since July. Have fun. It saved my butt last semester

  20. sepideh says:

    may i ask the weight of this pen. yeah it is really too good to be true but i have a very serious problem with the wrist of my hand i write with so it is really important to know if it’s suitable for me.
    hope it is 0^0…

  21. Karen says:

    Hamster? Pix or stfu.

  22. Chris M. says:

    the amount you can store on the pen itself at one time isn’t really a big deal, because you can sync it with your computer and then access all the features on the computer. you only really need the pen for the most recent notes, to go over after class etc.

    I can’t see why you couldn’t use the pen on an exam, though nor could I see why you’d want to. Without the dot paper, it’s just a pen.

  23. Colton says:

    I’ve heard about this pen many times and I might purchase one before heading off to college.

    And congratulations on placing 4th!

  24. Shreya says:

    I. Want. One. Of. Those. Now.

    *runs off to Livescribe*

  25. Oooh. Blog. says:

    I love how you can draw your own menu-cross. loved this, Snively, thanks! :D

  26. Chris M. says:

    DOH! I took pictures of me using the pen in class today to post a blog about how cool it was since everyone seems to be talking about it, and what do you know, you beat me to it. It’s just that cool.

  27. Snively says:

    Shoot ’em my way, I’ll throw them up

  28. Anonymous says:

    how is the memory on the pen? like for how long can audio/paper replay features be stored on it for before they must be deleted …?

  29. akhila says:

    The pen is super cool and awesome. I want that right now. And the blog was cooler than the pen Snively. Thanks for that. Enjoy your IAP.

  30. Anonymous says:

    How good could it be if its manufacturers can’t even even distinguish acetyl-CoA from acetylcholine? A pen that helps you get all your facts wrong? No thanks.

    Definitely not up to MIT standards by that alone.

  31. Snively says:

    So far I’ve almost entirely filled up a spiral and have only used half the memory on the 1 gig pen.

  32. deng says:

    wahh.. technology…

    and I second Ngozi ’13. I imagined your voice higher too raspberry

  33. Vaibhav says:

    What about the paper? Is the pen that useful without dot matrix paper (i.e.can it still store all the stuff we write? (so what’s the use of this paper then?
    Sounds awesome though!!!!

  34. Orims says:

    Hi Snively. I have a doubt that’s not related to MIT or the pen. How is your last name (if it is) or your name pronounced? I keep pronouncing it sniff(as in sniffing)-ly(lively,happily,etc.). If that is not how you are supposed to say it, can you en light me please :D.

  35. Anonymous says:

    where do you buy more notebooks?

  36. heywasup says:

    this is probably the SICKEST invention EVER!!

    Livescribe should pay you for doing such a good job endorsing their project.

    did i mention that this is the sickest pen ever??

  37. heywasup says:


    p.s. a blog suggestion… what exactly is IAP like at MIT??

  38. Ashwin says:

    At first I thought it was hyped a bit, but after reading the clarifications you made on the comments, seems pretty amazing!

    $150 for a pen though? Yikes!

  39. Aguirre '13 says:

    this pen is so freakin sweet!
    i saw it at costco the other day and i was about to buy it….but then i woulda been broke
    maybe in a few months haha

  40. Banerjee says:

    Hey that’s really cool, actually! When I first saw the title of this blog, I thought it would be about something really random, and although it kind of is, it’s really cool!!

    COOL post!!!!

  41. Sam R. '12 says:

    I got this pen before coming to MIT and its awesome. I use it all the time and it just perfect for reviewing stuff in the lectures and recitations in case you missed something or doesn’t make sense. It a really good investment.
    -sam r.

  42. pepper says:

    When will they come out with audio to text software?