…although they weren’t necessarily electronic. The Atlantic reports:
Although writing’s mobility might seem a product of modern digital gadgetry, there’s nothing new about writing on the move. Digital tools are but the latest take on a long tradition of writing in transit.
Preceding smartphones by centuries, writing boxes were among the first mobile-writing inventions. Small and portable, these wooden boxes were equipped with a flat or sloped surface for writing and an interior space for storing materials like paper, inkwells, quills, pens, seals, and wax. Many also included compartments for storing letters and postcards, and secret drawers with locks for private papers, important documents, trinkets, and valuables.
Writing boxes had an effect a lot like that of today’s electronic devices: They created an aura around writing, investing tools with an energy and power that enabled writers to gain pleasure from writing—or from the idea of writing, which might be equally gratifying.
. . .
Like laptops today, writing boxes were common tools of working writers. Lord Byron used one, as did Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, and Charles Dickens. The poet Alexander Pope reportedly insisted that his writing box be placed on his bed before he woke so that he could immediately capture his thoughts in writing before leaving his bed. Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton all wrote on writing boxes, too. In “The Laptops That Powered the American Revolution,” the historian Bethanee Bemis explains that during the Revolutionary War, Washington’s “most pivotal decisions” were issued from his writing box rather than from the battlefield.
There’s more at the link. Entertaining and recommended reading.
On a lighter note, Stephan Pastis notes one possible drawback to the explosion of self-edited writing in this Internet age.
He may have a point! Certainly, non-electronic laptops would have slowed things down to an editorially more manageable flow…