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Steve Jobs Hated the Stylus. Why Is It Having a Comeback?

Mm, work that stylus.

Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Not so long ago, a stylus was considered a sign of backward thinking. None other than Steve Jobs, after all, once declared, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.” 

In a world of electronic tablets, smartphones, and other gadgets, the pen-like stylus feels like an anachronism. And yet, the stylus is having a moment. 

Microsoft packages its Surface Pen in with its popular Surface tablets. Samsung has its S-Pen for its giant-size Galaxy Note phones.

Even Apple bucked the legacy of Steve Jobs recently when it introduced the Apple Pencil for the new iPad Pro tablet line, a stylus in all but name. 

Startup FiftyThree was early to this particular party. In 2013, FiftyThree released Pencil (beating Apple by more than two years), a stylus for the iPad designed to be used in conjunction with Paper, its award-winning sketchpad app. 

To FiftyThree founder Georg Petschnigg, it’s no surprise that Apple chose to follow its lead with its own Pencil stylus. After years of neglect as a last-generation kind of idea, the stylus is ready to take its rightful place as the new best way to get things done on the go. 

“Sure, it’s like, a lot of this stuff already existed, but can you put the pieces together in the right way?” asks Petschnigg.

Business Insider/FiftyThree

Basically, Petschnigg says, we’re on the third wave of smartphone input. The first, circa the late ’90s, was T9 predictive text input, which made texting a lot easier—and sparked a revolution. The second was the multitouch screen, popularized by the very first Apple iPhone in 2007.

Now, eight years later, we’re due for another big change. And it’s looking like that could be the stylus. 

The issue is that mobile apps have now grown to be both ubiquitous and complex. Eight years into the smartphone revolution, we expect to be able to accomplish more with our phones than ever before.

But we’re largely stuck using the same basic touchscreen gestures as we were in 2007, and some simple tasks like highlighting text have only gotten slightly better.

“We’ve been stuck with this wonky highlighting system for 8 years,” says Petschnigg.

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