CH. 11 «MODEL:Z-140x»

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05-19-2308

I run the bottoms of my palms and finger tips along the smooth and slightly worn surface of the plastic case. It’s rigid and semi-glossy, with a weird graphite sparkle from something metallic in the composite. It’s the familiar blend acrylic and styrene that makes up so much of the world around us. 87 individually molded and labeled tactile keys rest at the call of my fingertips, able to do anything from word processing and data input, to software function and OS control. The keypad is the conduit which I have to the digital exchange existing within the polymer walls and upon the silicon plains. There is also a touch pad that makes up the bottom of the input surface, a pointing device that manipulates a cursor on the screen, like a virtual fingertip, to assist in navigation of the Graphical User Interface.

A GUI sounds fancy but whether it comes with a pointing device or not, you probably have them in every gadget you own. From your computer and PDA to your  texti or the heads-up panel in your vehicle. In your home entertainment center’s control panel or just the menu of your DVR. The bathroom controls have one, the kitchen controls have one too; your home’s surface computer has one giant interface covering the entire tabletop. The atmosphere, electricity, plumbing and waste control terminals all have some rudimentary arrangements on top of that. The automated teller machine at the bank or in the food court uses it, as well as the order menu at any walk in restaurant and the help centers in most retail stores. It’s just an explorer or browser display; the neatly tabbed, filed and aesthetically rounded window you’re currently reading this through. It’s an underappreciated aspect of any operating system, one which all other elements of accessibility and function are contingent.

Without a GUI you’d be staring at raw data, possibly green text on a black screen like some antique CRT; archaic viewers that finally allowed us to give meaning to the term monitor, back in the first days of computers. You’d see the bare frame and structure that make up the system, all the lines of code laying about like so many cables without floor panels covering them, clear overhead ducts passing page after page of script with no ceiling tiles to mask. All the hubs would be exposed and bright with text streaming from it of all sorts of near unintelligibly tangled forms. Nothing would be indexed, as if everything were on one giant source page. No order, just sweet chaos made out of the most obedient of shapes.

It should go with out saying, but I would be driven insane if I couldn’t even use a basic root menu–for any period of time. I also wouldn’t be able to use the tablet surface built into the screen of my workstation. It has a stylus hidden in a spring-loaded bay within the case, a second pointing device that behaves like a pen when brought to the screen, which swivels around and folds flat to look like any regular portable. Well, maybe a little larger because it has an old battery cylinder along the back edge, a rounded bulge that makes it hard to fit in most bags designed for the modern portable that’s so popular these days. Those empirically white ones with all that chrome, dipped in an extra layer of clear acrylic to give protection and that weird luminescence. You know which ones I’m talking about, one of those real fancy digits. Of course you do, you’re probably using one right now. Mine is gargantuan compared to that.

You could be wondering why I would choose to use such a bulky instrument. Laptops, ancestors of portable workstations, had folding screens, which created enough problems in themselves, but the delicate keyboard it revealed beneath was a huge hassle. Not only was it a precarious design for something utilized so frequently, with top-heavy keys on tiny pins that connected a network of flat ribboned circuits, but they were incredibly hard to clean and any bit of water could cause the well-installed and hard-to-replace pad to go haywire. You couldn’t just plug in a new keyboard like on a stationary terminal in your home or at work, so many laptop owners would just replace the entire machine if anything were to happen to the most delicate–and most constantly used–input device.

My tablet PC isn’t so archaic though, it‘s generation could be considered Post-Laptops: systems designed beyond the capabilities of a conventional portable computer for the sake of selling a gimmick and usually to a target group, like artists or contractors. It may not be a typical touch screen, but the keyboard is a newer type of web-like sensor that doesn’t seem as susceptible to water. At least it has screws on the top I see that I can undo to replace the keypad myself if anything were to happen to it. I’m quite comforted by that. The tablet pen and screen were revolutionary when this system was imagined, but by the time it could be manufactured easily, or inexpensively enough for me to afford one, new standard multi-touch interfaces were implemented in the market by much larger and better advertised companies. The pen is actually a complete novelty now when you can use your finger tip as a stylus in art and editing programs.

Alright. Magic pen, sure cosmo. It was more ingenious back before you had to perform all the work on he same surface you viewed it on anyway. And you must still think I’m crazy for using an old keyboard when the touch screen pad you have can’t break, won’t get food or what-not stuck in it, and isn’t going to gork out when it gets a little damp. I guess the only thing that can be said is I’m just a romantic and a sucker for innovation and unique gadgetry. I also love antiquity and, yes, archaic things. I feel like those old machines had real soul in them, they had to work so much harder because they were more carefully handcrafted for real precision and longevity, less factory assembled and streamlined than most of the garbage pumped out today that doesn’t have to be great cause its designed to break down in two years.

And tapping my fingers on a flat surface just doesn’t seem right to the senses at all. I love the feel of real keys beneath my finger tips. Each is alert and stoic like some flat, bold-lettered nipple, waiting to receive and giving way to every push of my will before springing back up, ready for another. Every time with a satisfying noise. I feel like each word–nay, each letter is imbued with all the force with which I pound it’s key, giving off louder sounds the more intensity I use. I’m in complete control of this interface and it allows my mind and the blank page in front of me become as one. My thoughts flow freely to it.

I feel like the greats must have when they put down their immortal words on it, the strokes of their keys clacking away the whole night long in the echo of their empty quarters.

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PREV: CH. 10 «The Second Belt War»

PREV: CH. 10 «The Second Belt War»

NEXT: CH. 12 «Respite from my Texti»

NEXT: CH. 12 «Respite from my Texti»

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