Dan Booth Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor

Business Traveler (USA) - - WELCOME -

There was a time when key­boards, or more aptly, type­writ­ers, were largely the do­main of a spe­cial­ized group of la­bor­ers. Engi­neers used slide rules, artists used paint­brushes, movie mak­ers used cam­eras. But a few, we happy few, were writ­ers, and we joined the se­lect band of of­fice work­ers known as ‘the typ­ing pool’ whose pri­mary tool was a clack­ity-clack­ing, greasy-black-rib­bon, stick­ing-keys type­writer. How­ever with the ad­vent of the dig­i­tal age, some in­ter­face was nec­es­sary be­tween the hu­man and the ma­chine. Oh, sure, the com­puter could show us glow­ing green screens full of num­bers and letters; but we needed a way to talk back. And thus the trusty type­writer key­board was pressed into ser­vice as an in­put de­vice, and to­day it’s still among the most fa­mil­iar.

If you are some­one who uses a key­board – and let’s face it, who among us doesn’t these days? – you’ve prob­a­bly heard sto­ries of how the od­dball con­fig­u­ra­tion of keys known as QW­ERTY came to be. One tale has it that, in a tri­umph of hu­mankind over tech­nol­ogy, early type­writ­ers were so me­chan­i­cally in­ept, typ­ists lit­er­ally out-typed the ma­chine. The so­lu­tion? Slow down the hu­mans by re­ar­rang­ing keys. Of course, that didn’t slow us down for long.

But for some rea­son, the key­board ar­range­ment stuck around, even into the age of the mo­bile phone. With these mag­i­cal de­vices, we could have our key­boards ar­ranged ba­si­cally any­way we like, but still the quirky QW­ERTY per­sists.

Dur­ing the lat­est hur­ri­canes to plague the East Coast, my flight that was de­layed wait­ing for the storm to blow over. With noth­ing else to oc­cupy the time, ev­ery­one was on their phones, us­ing their key­boards to mes­sage, e-mail or search flight al­ter­na­tives. (Sur­pris­ingly few were ac­tu­ally us­ing the phone to talk.)

We mon­i­tored weather radar and news re­ports, and kept in touch with friends and loved ones. We watched the devastation, and thought about oth­ers in its path; our de­layed flight seemed a puny an­noy­ance by any com­par­i­son.

Dur­ing this emer­gency, I’m sure fin­gers else­where were clat­ter­ing away on other QW­ERTY key­boards, re­ar­rang­ing sched­ules and ex­e­cut­ing con­tin­gen­cies. But all the key­boards in the world can’t halt the storms of life that come our way. We can com­plain or we can cope – but not much else. No mat­ter how ad­vanced our tech­nol­ogy, our jour­neys are still very much at the mercy of Mother Na­ture.

Or her lack of it.

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