Click, Click, Click, Went the Keyboard . . .
June 18, 2013
We often have discussions about "The Good Ol’ Days" here at the Library. Our branch has a nice mix of older people and younger people, and this can lead to some great intergenerational conversations. Just the other day, I asked one of our bright, knowledgeable Pages if she had ever heard of Betamax before. Nope. Finally, we gave her the HD Blu-ray format war analogy to help her understand the Great VHS-Beta Debate of the 80s. Technology has helped us in many ways, and as I use the word "technology," my thoughts turn to memories of a high school history teacher. While I don’t remember many things about my classroom career, some things have stuck. One was what this teacher described technology as. He said that "technology is simply the exchange of ideas." This makes a lot of sense. Often, the word conjures up images of telephones or computers – modern and old fashioned – but technology doesn’t need to be electronic things. Technology refers to how we travel, from shoes to horses to autos. It can also refer to firearms or ways to light a fire.
The amazing thing is how we still cling to old ways. I have found that children are no longer taught typing in school. It isn’t necessary. I remember learning on manual typewriters then progressing all the way up to electronic typewriters that had that miraculous "correct" button that I could use when I mistyped a word. This involved a strip of white out that would pop up as you backspaced and cover the mistake with white paint-like gunk and replace it with the correct letter or symbol. I love the modern way we can see everything as we type on the computer, and our mistakes can be instantly fixed without the waste of ink or paper. I do sometimes miss the "ding" sound of the bell as you came to the end of a typed line and the satisfying feel of pushing the roller back to start a new line.
Now for Tim’s Typewritin’ Trivia!
- The keyboard we use now – known as the QWERTY keyboard because of the first six letters on the top line is a throwback to the days of the original typewriters. The system was devised to keep keys from sticking as typists got too fast with their correspondence. Now, it is not necessary since we don’t use keys anymore. When you type on a computer keyboard, the plastic key goes down to a sensor which relays the information to the computer and subsequently to the monitor so you can see what you are typing. There is a lot of other technical mumbo-jumbo I don’t understand, but that’s the basics of it. And while we’re speaking of the letter keys…
- The raised keys that go down and click as we type really aren’t necessary at all. In the 1980s, some computer makers offered the keypads as an alternative. The lack of that satisfying click left many customers feeling like something integral was missing in the typing experience, so the computer makers continued making the keyboards as we know them to this day. Most PC and laptop users still get that clicking keyboard experience, although tablets, many smart phones, and iPods are now using the touchpad, and people seem to be getting used to it.
- One last typing thing: I’m still getting used to only single spacing after a period at the end of a sentence. Evidently, the double spacing most of us were taught was done because the size of letters could be different on the old typewriters, but modern typewriters and now computers keep the space any letter takes up the same so double spacing is not necessary.
- Every time you save a document, what do you click with your mouse? On my screen, it’s the little icon in the upper right that looks like a blue square with some white at the top. There is a whole generation of people who probably don’t even know what that represents. It’s an image of a disc. The old floppy disc, which really wasn’t so floppy in the 90s, was based on the larger and truly floppy disc from the 70s and 80s. (The originals held about 100KB of storage.)
- Getting away from the computer world, another superfluous thing we see on a daily basis is soap suds. Yup. I can’t imagine washing my hair without that white lather foaming on top, or scrubbing my dishes without all those suds. But they aren’t entirely necessary. As a matter of fact, in the 1960s, Procter and Gamble experimented with selling soaps that were advertised as sudless and met with extremely low sales and an underwhelming response. They got you, your clothes, or dishes as clean as anything, but our perception was that without those suds, things are still dirty.
So many things are not around that seem like they were just there yesterday, from phone booths to the photomats. The subject of technological advances could fill several more blogs.
Try: Obsolete : An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By by Anna Jane Grossman.
This is one of those subjects that is just fun to research and surf the web for as well. Interesting to note too that some say printed books are obsolete while others say they’ll never go out of style. Either way, we’ve got you covered. We still have plenty of printed materials lining our shelves and new items coming every week. We also have a lot of eBook selections for those who use them.
So come visit us here at Riverside or any of our branches. We’ll be glad to help you find what you’re looking for. And while you hear us clicking away at our computers, remember that the excellent customer service we provide is something that will never be obsolete.