There are wonderful inventions that make things easy for people. Then there are what I call dysinventions, or bad inventions, that while seeming to advance technology actually represent a step backward. One prominent example is the touchscreen keyboard. I could see the thought forming in the inventor’s mind: “Why not get rid of the clunky keyboard and just have people hit letters on a keyboard that appears on the screen?”
Well now, that’s just ducky for texting, twittering, and other forms of second-tier communications; but I could not enter this blog on such a quasi-keyboard. Let’s take yesterday’s blog, for example. I would have to type the name of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull without the umlaut over the “o”. Eyjafjallajokull would probably look okay to most people, but it is wrong to me; and I insist on absolute correctness. To get the letter, I hit Alt-0246 on my keyboard. To get the em dash in the third paragraph, I type Alt-0151 instead of the double hyphen (“- -”) using the old typewriter convention.
I feel bad enough that there are some Eastern European diacritical marks I can’t use, such as an anacrusis or the Hungarian double-acute-accent over the “o” and “u” to indicate an extended vowel sound. In time, I will figure this out. But not on one of those touchscreen keyboards. I can imagine it would be gruelling just to type an average paragraph shifting between upper and lower case letters and numbers, let alone diacritical marks.
If I can’t make it look as if it were typeset, I would just as soon forget the whole thing. It just wouldn’t be me.
And that is why I don’t travel with an iPad or similar “crippled computer.”