Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas


June 16, 2014

The keyboard blues

As I stare at this stupid keyboard for this stupid computer, I sadly observe that there are some 109 possible keys I could mash. I actually only know what half of them are for (basically the typewriter keyboard) but they suffice for my meager applications.

There appears to be a calculator function on the right side of the keyboard which encompasses 18 keys which only get touched when I wipe down the keyboard. I suppose these keys are intrinsic to the dreaded “spread sheet” function. I wonder if I could use this function to rectify my pesky monthly bank statement?

Along the top, there is the “esc” key followed by keys “F1” through “F19,” that are worthless to me. Oh, wait, the “F11” and “F12” buttons raise and lower the volume on the speakers. The others are about as valuable to me as the “fn,” “home,” “page up,” “page down,” “end,” “control,” “option,” and “command” keys.

Adding to the fun are the 21 or 22 icons that appear in the Dock at the bottom of my screen. I make use of 3 or 4 of these at most. From time to time there seem to be a thousand options on the menu bars that appear along the top of my desktop which just add to my computer hysteria.

I do have a teeny-tiny, user unfriendly booklet (“Everything Mac) that says on the first page, “Congratulations, you and your iMac were made for each other.” Yeah, right! Here are a couple of the descriptions of features: “Dashboard key (F4) — Open Dashboard to access your widgets.” “Expose All Windows key (F-3) — Open Expose for quick access to all your open windows.”

My absolute favorite is, “Built-in iSight camera — Videoconference with friends and family over broadband using the iChat AV application, snap pictures with Photo Booth application, or capture video with iMovie.” Well, bippety-boppety-boo!

I do make a great deal of use of the row of numeric/symbol keys near the top. The hieroglyphs that we use in everyday writing have always kind of interested me.

My favorite punctuation glyph is the exclamation point/mark (!), which is used to express strong feelings (I mean it!) or high volume (watch out!). Like many of our English writing symbols, this glyph probably evolved from the Latin word for joy “io.”

The ampersand (&) is commonly known as the “and symbol” and is a logogram ligature (look them up, Ron) of the Latin “et” which means “and.”

The asterisk (*) is a glyph derived from the Greek word “asteriskos,” which means “little star.” Who knew? I guess its most common use is to denote footnotes to the written material.

How about the ever-popular at sign/symbol (@)? There are several theories about this guy’s origin but the most popular is that it is a hybrid of “each at” with a small “a” inside a small “e.” Of course this was long before the good old e-mail addressing took over.

The percent sign (%) has a very convoluted origin but suffice to say it basically means a ratio or fraction of 100. Did you know that the permille sign (0/00) means per thousand or that the permyriad sign (0/000) means per ten thousand? Now, aren’t you glad you read my stuff — there is no telling what I might pass on from “Mr. Wikipedia” which is one menu bar item I could not do without.

The most fascinating symbol is the number sign (#) which has evolved into the pound sign (not to be confused with the English pound silver) and now has become the hashtag symbol. I have always just accepted the number sign but the pound sign business confused me at first. I remember a telephone prompt years ago that told me to enter my account number followed by the pound sign. I dutifully typed in the 14-digit number and followed it with “lbs” and lost my connection. This “hashtag” phenomenon may be taking over the social media world but you can bet this old throwback will never be caught hashtagging.

For me, the most valuable use for the above mentioned punctuation glyphs is that I can use them to substitute for vulgar or objectionable language. In order to get this rant past His Royal Editorship, Bob the Belcher, I will close by saying, “I hate this !&*@%# computer and this !&*@%# computer hates me!

See ya...


Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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