After much sporadic attempts over the years to make use of this computer once more, finally I have been able put it in a slightly usable form.
Among the many things that was quite satisfying, the keyboard of this forsaken and abandoned portable computer feels very much at home with my fingers. Indeed, it is not the best that can be had. But after a few keystrokes, words, and statements, it finally feels at home. The layout is very much suited to the way my fingers position themselves on the board. Clunky sorts of keys always made me feel good about typing. A little resistance and clunk gives a certain sensory feedback that always made me perceive that all is in order. Certain keys retain a much appreciated order that is similar to regular desktop keyboards. It has been my observation that the key group of Insert – Delete – Home – End – PageUp – PageDown, which is usually found right on top of the arrow keys most common keyboards, is in much the same manner as it is positioned here. In a similar fashion from a developer’s point of view, certain keys that are regularly varying in position like the back slash and forward slash are placed conveniently. The keys for Backspace and Enter are very much within reach of my little finger with only the slightest twitch of the wrist. Most of modern releases of new laptop computers have scrambled it around the layout in the attempt to make it fit certain design or ergonomic considerations; forgetting that the original in this case is still the best.
Personally and from a contemplative view of even the most mundane of things, the Backspace key and the Enter key are two of the most important buttons on a computer. It represents abstractions of key things in life which I hold crucial in daily living: Correcting Mistakes and Moving Forward.
Take this very much ostracized and taken-for-granted key: the Backspace. If there is one other key besides the usual “ASDF-JKL:” group wherein your fingers get their bearing, the Backspace is very close to heart (and most abused of all keys in my case). It represents a step back from the daily grind. If you consider it enough, you come to realize the things that were missing in the design of another antiquated invention of man: the typewriter. For those who still remember and have actually pounded on such monstrosity, the typewriter is not very forgiving. The slightest of error compels you to scramble for the white correction fluid or to press the backspace on a typewriter. This really doesn’t do much except put you a character back and tempt you to continuously ram down the correct character until you are able to fool yourself that the error has been resolved by a very darkened ‘correct’ character on the foreground with a shade of the typographical error on the back. The damage is done; and if you were on the last sentence of the last paragraph a page, you will find yourself madly mumbling to yourself or to the typewriter. The generation of today will never feel the same elation of freedom from that misfortune, the elation of a backspace key that actually deletes errors.
And yet, even after all those misfortunes, frustrations, illusions, and elation of the much forsaken yet now discussed Backspace key, all is for naught if we stop moving forward. Imagine now if there were no Enter key. Imagine if life ended in a day. Imagine if we never get beyond the constricted spaces of one line. Admittedly, quite a few people would be thankful for brevity and conciseness of words and writings. But not everyone would accept, wholeheartedly, the brevity of life. All words and all actions in the Arts or in Technology is a continuous trot and gallop towards the future beyond former mistakes, towards a goal of perfection or beauty, towards a better idea, and towards a better life. Encapsulated in that one button in the keyboard is the amalgamation of all things that is true about life: it goes on, it moves forward. Whether one likes it or not, change and the inevitability of the future is with us all the way.
I take of my hands of this newly-restored yet relatively relic piece of technology for a while. Pondering the hours spent in restoring and cleaning and wrestling with the eye-squinting wires and components, I cannot help but smile knowing that now, after all has been done, I return my hands on the keys with enthusiasm.
Cocoa, Ruby, Java, Hi-Performance Fortran, or C++ applications.
It is all about touch. And in the modern world, whether it be on a mundane keyboard, or this semi-advanced laptop sort, or even to the multi-touch sensitive screens found in advanced gadgets and electronics, the keyboard in various forms will stay with us. In a world where flash, visual candy, and stunning displays are given most weight and appreciation by consumers and users, remember once in a while to ponder the humble computer keyboard.
The CPU may be the computer’s heart, the display may be the window to the soul in the machine, but the keyboard is what keeps it all running. The keyboard is the nexus between man and machine, where touch still reigns supreme.