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 →
Have you ever heard the expression “stuck a feather in his hat and called in macaroni”? If you grew up in the United States, you almost certainly have because it is part of a popular American nursery rhyme that goes “Yankee Doodle went to town, just to ride the poneys, stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.” And just like most Americans, you have no idea what it means. I’m not going to explain it here because it is quite a story, but rest assured it will be explained later on.
The important thing at the moment is to recognize that a feather is more than one of the identifying characteristics of birds. In fact, the story of the feather (or feathers) in certain ways parallels the history and development of mankind. This is why the word is found in so many idioms and commentaries on the human condition.
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My wife loves thimbles. Not that she sews all that much; in fact, she hardly sews at all. Rather, she finds a thimble to be the ideal souvenir to remember each place we visit. In fact, the wall of our dining room is devoted almost exclusively to a display of souvenir thimbles.
I also love thimbles. Or at least one thimble, the thimble piece in the Monopoly board game. I don’t know why but when I was a kid, I always chose the thimble as my preferred playing piece. I haven’t played in decades, but every time I hear the word thimble, my childhood comes rushing back to me.
To the general mind, the thimble probably has nothing historic or fascinating about it; it is quite mundane. However, it has a history much more fascinating, and its uses are much more exotic than a non-aficionado could possibly imagine. This is why I believe the not-so-lowly thimble deserves a place on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”
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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.
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