THE ELECTRIC YELLOW PAD

We looked at our first tablet PC about 10 years ago. There was a fancy reception for the press, and we all got to write our names on the touch screen. Years before that, Bob attended a dog and pony show for the press in San Jose, Calif., where about 300 people watched an entrepreneur literally jump up and down and go into an arm-whirling frenzy about a new tablet his company had that would recognize handwriting. The company disappeared without a trace a few months later.

The whole gimmick in tablet PCs is that they recognize handwriting — more or less. You write on a plastic surface with a special stylus, and the software stores it as text. The presumed market for this technology is doctors making their rounds and real estate people jotting down your home preferences. (Are they trying to tell us this thing can read a doctor’s handwriting?   Convertible Notebook

The new models can be used either as a laptop with keyboard or as a tablet PC. In either case, the people involved better have good upper-body strength for the new $900 Gateway X210X Convertible Notebook we tried out. It weighs 7 1/2 pounds, which feels like much more after holding it for a few minutes. And don’t forget where you put down the special stylus that comes with it for writing on the tablet, because without it you can’t write a thing.

Now what escapes us in all this technology is why you need to write anything on a computer in the first place. Almost anyone can type much faster than they can write, and it’s always readable.

If you much prefer to write in longhand, we know of a perfect tablet for accepting notes: It’s called a pad of paper. The special stylus that works best with this is called a pencil, though some people prefer a pen (we don’t want to get too technical here). These cost just a few cents and require no batteries or special connections. They even come with a rubber “undo” feature at one end.

Now if you must enter things you can quickly e-mail, it is likely that one of the handhelds, like the Blackberry or the Samsung BlackJack we’re trying out, will fill that need.

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