Pencil boards (“墊板”) were something I missed from childhood. I used to have one that looked exactly like the one above. They would usually have one that looked exactly like the one above. They usually contained cartoon characters, and a Chinese/English alphabet chart (and sometimes you’d get multiplication tables too!)
You can use them to isolate the space between the pages. When you make notes on flimsy Taiwanese textbook pages, even light HB lead will bleed to the next page, so usually pencil boards are used to contain the damage. Again, I wasn’t exactly pressured as a kid, so guess I just wasn’t making those notes like the model students in the class. Not much use of pencil boards for me here apart from being a mouse pad when I played Starcraft.
Yeah, they basically were nothing more than cheap pieces of plastic with stuff on them. They would cost you anywhere from 10NTD to 30NTD (about 30 cents to $1). I never comprehended as a kid why people would use these. Supposedly, they give you a flat surface to write on, but isn’t that what tables are for?
I saw a lot of other kids buy these, and I never completely understood why. I thought my table worked perfectly in terms of a writing surface. I still bought some pencil boards, though, just for the novelty factor. I’d buy them simply for the terribly printed pictures on them. Seriously, the quality is absolutely atrocious, but whatever. I didn’t care as a kid since it had my favorite cartoon character on it.
Then I went to college. I experienced what it was like to have a bad table.
My table is now unsmooth: it has scratches, dents and even holes that run straight to the other end (how is that even possible)? Suddenly, I kinda missed the pencil boards I used to use. Wouldn’t it be great if my lead didn’t keep breaking because of the various holes on my table? It sure would be. I guess I took a smooth table for granted. I just assumed there was no way anyone had to deal with a table that has been in a dormitory for more than 30 years (according to a housing employee).
Then I realized, man, I was pretty lucky as a kid. I didn’t have to write on these terrible tables. I actually was able to write on a smooth surface. I most certainly enjoyed the benefits of being in a upper-middle class family.
I now understand, though, why kids used to buy pencil boards, and it makes me miss the warmth of my upper-middle class home just a bit. It makes me appreciate the luxury of a smooth table I once had.