Say the word “keyboard” and people today almost invariably think “computer.” This is because today most people use a keyboard only in connection with a computer or computer-based devices (laptops, tablets, iPads, iPhones, etc.). The fact is, keyboards predate the computer and its derivatives by many centuries, being parts of specialized machines used for specialized purposes. However, public awareness of keyboards only began with the development of the first commercially successful typewriter in 1868.
The change in society wrought via the typewriter, of which keyboards were an integral part, was truly monumental. This is why the keyboard unquestionably deserves a place of honor on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”
Continue reading A Perfect Combination, the Keyboard and Mouse: Extraordinary Ordinary Things
The outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine has riveted the world’s attention on the unthinkable, a major war on the European continent. Although it has been some 77 years since the last major war in Europe ended, to anyone paying attention its outbreak should have come as no surprise. War appears to be inherent in human nature. So invoking it seems to be inevitable as long as human beings have the material means and political ability to put it into practice.
Continue reading How Computing Could Help Put an End to Wars. All Wars. Everywhere in the World.
The purpose of the “Extraordinary Ordinary Things” series of blogs is to highlight that certain things have become so embedded in daily life that we hardly ever think about them, and then to show how they are really dramatically remarkable. Frequently, examination of a particular extraordinary ordinary thing opens the door to a much broader concept whose effects on society are virtually incalculable. This is the case here with the TV remote control, specifically, and the virtually all-encompassing concept of remote control in general.
Continue reading TV Remote Control—Extraordinary Ordinary Things
A major hit song of the 1960s, in fact, now considered to be a classic, is Roger Miller’s 1966 rendition of “King of the Road,” lauding the freedom of being a drifter, working only when necessary, and constantly moving on. Everything leads the listener to believe the singer is an honest person with minimal wants and needs. However, at one point he informs us:
I know every engineer on every train
All of the children and all of their names
Every handout in every town
Every lock that ain't locked when no one's around.
The last line appears quite ambiguous. I have never quite understood how to interpret it because it seems so out of character with the rest of the song. I would really like to know.
However, what is certainly not ambiguous or open to question is the important roles the lock has played in defining and shaping human society. Indeed, for some, it is virtually the quintessential dividing line between city folks, i.e. those who lock their doors, often with multiply locks, for fear of unwanted intrusions, and country folk, i.e. those who don’t lock their doors because they feel there is no need to. “Everyone knows everyone, so we are certain no one is going to do anyone any harm.”
Continue reading The Lock—Extraordinary Ordinary Things