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Bad Tradition

I'm a traditionalist. I'm no sucker for post modern flim-flam in my fiction or film - simply tell me a story - formal experimentation is fine - but there'd better be a human story at heart. I believe in decorum - that we can and should be decent and civil with one another. And I believe parents are to raise children, not cater to their entertainments.

Despite my healthy respect for the wisdom of ages contained in tradition, there are sometimes traditions that should die. These are often traditions only a handful of generations old - traditions like the use of the QWERTY keyboard.

The QWERTY keyboard layout was designed in the late 1800's to slow typists down. The previously employed key configuration enabled typists to strike them at a pace that outperformed the early typewriter's capabilities* and resulted in jams or damage to the machine. By introducing the QWERTY keyboard - one where the most used keys _were_not_ under the fingers, but instead required a bit of travel or contortion, business owners could slow down typists and would have to fix or replace far-fewer typewriters. And back then, that made sense. But not today, in an age where keyboards are not only cheap but also durable. Speed at the keyboard is baffled by tradition. There are alternatives to QWERTY, such as the Dvorak keyboard - designed for speed and convenience. But, just like the United States' switch to the metric system which they told us in grade school was imminent, a switch is yet to happen. Most people don't know about this history of the keyboard, and far fewer would want to relearn their way around it.

Similarly, here in southwest Idaho, despite us being on the edge of a desert, we have grass lawns. They require a lot of water, are easily overtaken by weeds more disposed to this dry climate, and require maintenance that I don't expect many folks relish. Yet we have lawns because it's a given (and maybe our neighborhood covenants require it). Still, would a strong, prolonged drought be enough to change this tradition, or is it more deeply entrenched?

what would it take to transition folks from the QWERTY to the Dvorak keyboard? I'm having a hard time coming up with a natural disaster capable of that...

Some bad traditions, though, just need to die.

* Speaking of typewriter ephemera, my dentist told me the story of a secretary in the Math and Science Department of his college. It was her task to type tests and other materials for the Department on an IBM Selectric. For special characters not molded onto the standard Selectric ball one would swap out the ball for another with the desired special character. The secretary in this Math and Science department had enough experience with this that people would introduce her like so: "This is Mary. She's proficient on five balls."

3 comments

Byron W. Folwell wrote 9 years 3 weeks ago

Mike, I enjoyed this post

Mike,
I enjoyed this post quite a lot.
"The Modern Composer refuses to die" Edgar Varese
"The Modern Homeowner refuses to let their lawn die" Byron Q. Folwell

Also, I am proficient in no balls.

mlsamuelson wrote 9 years 3 weeks ago

Byron!

Have you dabbled in xeriscaping at all? Wondering what "My Friend the Architect"™ thinks about that option. Or do you advocate salting the earth? ("It's a flavor enhancer, people!")

mlsamuelson

Byron W. Folwell wrote 9 years 3 weeks ago

Xeriscape the Land

Yes, my friend...I have dabbled in that Black Art: Xeriscaping. I am all for it, of course. You know, we'll never be as green as Oregon, or have as many palm trees as Caulifornya...but being in the high desert means that we have our own special mix of flora and fauna. I am (soon to be) working with Mr. Kevin Allen on a landscaping specification for all of my residential work. A good list of drought-resistant plants that are perfect for thi part of Idaho. Who knows, maybe someday people will want to have that "Treasure Valley" landscaping look in Arizona, New Mexico, Etc.

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