Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
  Changing habits, one key at a time.
I first learned to program on terrible square key calculator like keyboards, but back then the computer only had a few kilobytes of memory, terrible offline storage options, and no serious editor. We still wrote BASIC programs every hour we could get access to the machines, and considered ourselves lucky.

On a lark, I went over to the business department at high school, and signed up to learn typing. This involved pounding keys on a manual typewriter, and occasionally getting access to the high technology of an IBM Selectric typewriter. (You could change fonts, character pitch, and at it even had a backspace.) Still, it was mostly about the the letters and numbers, and a few standard symbols above the numbers. Nobody was trying to type a |.

In college, things progressed to the next level. Mainframes had hard disks (wow), and you could type something one day, and come back on another day and it was still there. Changing existing files became as important if not more, than creating new files, and so I buckled down and learned a few home grown editors, as well as the up-and-coming, vi editor. The control key, and the escape key became very important keys.

My favorite terminal at the time, a beastly thing, called the ATT DMD 5620 had the control key right to the left of the letter A, and the escape key right to the left of the number 1. Very easy to get to, and quick to punch. For years, I worked quite well.

Unfortunately, along that time came the IBM PC. This ruined everything. The computer was naturally seen as a successor of their popular typewriters (see above), and they wanted to make things as familiar as possible for people moving from typing on their typewriters to typing on the PC, so instead of putting the control key to the left of the letter A, they put CAPS LOCK there. For a while I fought a slow retreat, re-mapping keys in X windows with XModMap, or trying to find various utilities for Windows, but as I moved from startup to startup, it became too much trouble and I gave in to reality that I was stuck with that layout. So for almost 30 years I have been typing on computer where the control key is banished down to the row with the space bar, far in the gutter, and the back tick and squiggle have invaded the spot to the left of the 1, with escape key floating up in the sky with the function keys.

But the mass market machine came to my rescue--sort of. Since the keyboard had been turned into a $10 commodity with cheap switches and a terrible layout, it had actually created a niche market for people who cared about the device they were typing on. And it turned out that a great deal of them were programmers. So not only were there better buttons and switches, but a number of options let you re-arrange things in the firmware itself (usually with DIP switches, because of course that's what you'd use, we're programmers after all).

So I am trying to fight decades of bad habits. I have new keyboards with configurable layouts (and LED backlights, because again, of course you'd have that), and I have moved my control key back to where it should have been all along. At the moment, it is terrible painful. I either have to think first before typing a control sequence, or if using muscle memory, activate the Caps lock accidentally. But I will persevere. I will retrain myself, and rejoin the lost universe, where the keyboard is a finely tuned instrument for the programmer to create the program.

Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 / May 2004 / June 2004 / July 2004 / August 2004 / September 2004 / October 2004 / November 2004 / December 2004 / January 2005 / February 2005 / March 2005 / April 2005 / May 2005 / June 2005 / July 2005 / August 2005 / September 2005 / October 2005 / November 2005 / December 2005 / January 2006 / February 2006 / March 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / June 2006 / July 2006 / August 2006 / September 2006 / October 2006 / November 2006 / December 2006 / January 2007 / February 2007 / March 2007 / April 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / October 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / January 2008 / May 2008 / June 2008 / August 2008 / February 2009 / August 2009 / February 2010 / February 2011 / March 2011 / October 2011 / March 2012 / July 2013 / August 2013 / September 2013 / October 2013 / November 2013 / December 2013 / December 2014 / February 2015 / March 2015 / July 2016 / September 2016 / December 2016 / April 2017 / June 2017 / July 2018 / November 2018 / January 2019 / February 2019 / April 2019 / December 2019 / March 2020 /

Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

Powered by Blogger