Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, May 6, 2010

just thinking out loud here

Kara Swisher tells us that

personal computing is about to get a lot more personal. Internet-based television now in development will recognize a viewer and deliver customized entertainment.

And it will do this without the trusty keyboard and mouse. We're already phasing them out, thanks to the increasing popularity of touch screens -- including the patron saint of all this, the Apple iPhone, and a spate of copycat smartphones. All of these devices allow users to navigate without physical buttons or input devices.

Thus, with a flick of the finger, the era of the mouse and the keyboard will soon be over.

Sounds awesome! But I have a question. Ever since I got my first laptop — the original Mac PowerBook 100 in 1992, if you must know — I have done a good deal of my writing in coffee shops, in libraries, in my living room (while other members of my family read or watch TV), and even on airplanes and in trains. I have written a lot, and plan to do a lot more writing in the future. If I’m going to keep writing in such environments, Kara Swisher, how am I going to do it without a keyboard? Am I going to make everyone around me listen as I compose my prose out loud with my voice-recognition software, sort of like like Winston Churchill in his bedroom with his army of secretaries? Will “writing in public” be the new “talking on my cellphone in public”?

Please reply soonest.


  • Vince Virgilio said...

    Ms. Swisher is simply channeling Scotty in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home":

    [faced with a 20th century computer]
    Scotty: Computer. Computer?
    [Bones hands him a mouse and he speaks into it]
    Scotty: Hello, computer.
    Dr. Nichols: Just use the keyboard.
    Scotty: Keyboard. How quaint.

  • Michael Straight said...

    What's this "writing"? She clearly says that the internet is something you "navigate". Smartphones and iPads are for consuming media, not creating it.

    It would be rude of you to sit there writing something when your computer recognizes you and is trying to offer you customized entertainment.

  • Is she saying that all keyboard will be gone or that we will be using touch screen keyboards in their place? I read this as saying that we will still use keyboards from time to time, but they will not be a physical part of our devices.

  • Anon, a touchscreen keyboard is still a keyboard, so I think she's talking about something else — e.g., when she writes, "our digital devices are poised to become even more ubiquitous. They will surround us, responding to our expressions, emotions and gestures." But Swisher may just be confused. She writes that iPhones and other touchscreen devices "allow users to navigate without physical buttons or input devices," but while iPhones don't have many "physical buttons" all of its touch features are still "input devices."

    In any case, touchscreen keyboards are going to have to develop quite a bit further before anyone can write more than a short blog post or comment on them. . . .

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