Sunday, April 08, 2007

Facilitating Text


With the ubiquitous technologies of Blackberries, Voice Recognition, virtual keyboards, and even T9 text typing for cell phones, it's amazing to me that so much effort has been put out to make creating text easier.

Why Hasn't Text Gone The Way of the Mimeograph Machine?
Remember when teachers used to write their pop quizzes on those two-ply master mimeograph sheets, and then then carefully load them into the machine that would make multiple copies...and of course, the fresh smell of mimeograph copies?

I would have thought that in the decades since that technology was current, that we would have moved further away from text as the basic form of communicating in an electronic world.

Some technologies give us alternatives to electronic texting, such as cell phones, Podcasts, MP3 players and DVD's, but we are still primarily centered on text-based communications, especially for business. My cell phone allows me to send text messages, when I could just as easily call a person and speak with them directly, or leave a voice mail. In fact, my cell phone has even made texting (if I can use that at as a verb) easier, by using T9 keying (e.g. instead of pressing the number 2 three times to type a "c", then the number 2 once to get an "a", then the number 7 three times to get an "r" and finally the number 7 four times to get an "s", to spell "cars", I can just pres 2277, and the T9 software translates that to "cars"). There are even virtual laser keyboards that can be used with a cell phone or Blackberry that allow you to project a keyboard onto your desk that can be used for actually typing.

It just seems that we're still stuck in a mindset from the time of heiroglyphics, whereas you'd think we'd have progressed to a more efficient means of communicating.

Current Knitting
I did finish the right-front of the colorblock cardigan this past weekend.



I'll start to work on the dreaded sleeves. I won't even give an estimate of how long I think they will take me.

Birthday Gifts
Knitblogger and friendly vetinarian, Mel, sent me some beautiful alpaca roving from one of his alapacas, Madelyn (it was actually Mel's way of repaying me for a fiber book I sent him, but it came around my birthday, and his book got to him around his birthday, so I'll call them birthday presents).



Madelyn must have been young when she was sheared for this roving in 2005. The fiber is soft and fluffy, and I can't wait to finish my current spinning project so I can spin this up into a web-fine yarn.

I also got an incredibly nice gift from my friend Charles this past weekend. In addition to taking Thaddeus and I out to dinner, he also gave me this beautiful leather portfolio.



It is indescribeably smooth and soft, and the leather just glows. The maker, Bosca, describes it as follows:

"Old Leather by Bosca is a beautifully distinguished leather that exhibits a unique depth of color and elegance. This exceptional leather is oak tanned then colored with hand-sponged vegetable dyes. Originating in the Frascati wine country near Rome, this is a centuries-old method of producing the world's richest, longest lasting leather."

And that barely describes how soft and wonderful smelling this object is. I will carry it into meetings proudly.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Angie described a sweater that I am having difficulty identifying, so I will post pictures of the three most likely candidates that I can locate.




Is it any of these three?

Seanna Lea writes, "Is this latest photo more true to color or is it somewhere between the two (today's picture and the one from last week)."

Actually, April 3rd's picture is the closest on my monitor. It's a little darker, smokier than most of the pictures I take of the garment (I'm no Franklin when it comes to photography either).

Ingrid writes, "I was excited to read your tutorial but was unable to see any of the pictures. Is it just me or should I be able to see them?"

The pictures disappeared from the tutorial (linked on the sidebar) when I switched to the new Blogger...I've updated the link so the pictures should now appear. Hope it's useful.

17 comments:

Jean said...

For what it's worth, Joe:

A few decades ago (I'm a lot older than you are) I predicted confidently that the ability to tell time on an analog clock face would soon become as obsolete as the slide rule. It's not at all an obvious or easy accomplishment, whereas digital time-telling is simple.

But I was wrong. We can still all "tell time", even those of us born since 1990.

So maybe it takes more time than one would think for us to catch up with technology, or technology with us.

anne marie in philly said...

who IS that handsome man in the colorblock pullover?

inquiring minds wanna know...

Anonymous said...

When I read the lovely description of your birthday portfolio, I am truly happy we are still a text-based society, but then I am an English teacher :) I am also afraid I have to quibble with Jean. I teach seventh graders (mostly 13 year olds) and several of them can not read a traditional clock. They want a clock with "the numbers," as if my wall clock doesn't have any. It's disconcerting, to say the least.

The colorblock sweater is beautiful. I've been watching it come together, wondering if I would ever have the patience for it and have decided watching you knit it is better.

Chris

Lynne E. said...

Wow! The Fair Isle sampler pattern sweater is amazing--it doesn't even look knitted. It reminds me of bandanna kerchief fabrics, though of course it isn't similar at all. Is this the sort of thing that is supposed to show that you have no color sense? The color combinations are unusual, but they really work.

Michelene said...

At the school where I work, the kindergarten assistants still use a mimeograph machine for some of the projects. If it ever breaks though, it's dodo time.
Ugh. I can't imagine how we could live without text to communicate? Text, via the printing press brought us out of the Dark Ages and allowed the masses to learn to read. Text preserves the spoken words, the passion, the art, the soul of our predecessors. Text (or any artistic medium) can transcend the the small, petty, human flaws we all share--an author(or and artist) may be a vile person--yet their words resonate within ourselves. Text often, though not always, requires thought, unlike visual media such as film or television which usually require little effort. Push a button and your senses are bombarded with an endless stream of visceral images.
Understanding text takes work. First, you have to learn to read.
Do you remember when you learned to read? What unbridled joy, even ecstasy! What power! Can you remember the first book you ever read(not counting school readers).
Mine was The Cat in the Hat. Now, can you remember the first television show you ever saw?
I'm no Luddite, but even technology(like this blog), relies on text to communicate. Our brains (especially mine) are hardwired to language, not mathmatics as a method of communication--to change that would require a paradigm shift for almost all of the human population. (I'm guessing that Bill Gates and Steven Jobs would have an easy time of it.)

Michelene said...

Of course, as a flawed human being, I enjoy cheesy television and movie sci-fi. The worse the science, the greater my enjoyment.

Ingrid said...

Thanks so much for fixing the pictures. Sweater sleeves, here I come!

Kim said...

Hmm. Phonetic writing is in itself an advance over hieroglyphic days. The strange spelling rules of most modern languages aside (especially English), being able to render any word ever created with a limited symbol set is much easier to learn and teach than is a ideograph-based language.

But there are two problems here. One is simplifying the creation of text. Thumbing text messages in on a limited function keyboard is as you note, wildly sub-optimal. Even full-fisted typing on a human-sized keyboard with adequate keys is far from fluid for most.

I still long for Asimov's text-writer - the verbal transcription system he tossed into his Foundation books. It was sort of like OCR in reverse. You speak, and fully corrected, properly punctuated and spelled text spits out. I am sure that there are larval versions of the idea working now, but they are limited by paradoxes of the spoken language. My guess is that things like homophones are problematic. So would be the fact that very few people bother to speak in complete and grammatical sentences.

The second problem is one of communications density. As clumsy as it is, for many people reading is faster than taking the time to hear the same text spoken out loud. Text on a page remains the most time-effective method of communication, even if it is not space-efficient.

So written text isn't going anywhere any time soon. The medium on which that text is stored and displayed will certainly change. But clumsy written words are here to stay.

Anonymous said...

WIll the sleeves also be in blocks of colors? Are will they be a solid color so the completed garment looks like a vest over a solid colored sweater? Or maybe stripes of the block colors?

mehitabel said...

Good thoughts on text, but a minor quibble: the alcohol-based purple text is a ditto machine; a mimeograph machine uses stencils that are "cut" on a typewriter and prints in black printer's ink. It smells, not of heady fumes but instead stinks of ink--like a newspaper. One of my (many) jobs involved making masters of these two different types, also using the Thermofax machine (heat-activated masters) and even a gel printer. From which you will deduce that I am older than dirt!
And I don't like being read to, loathe books on tape--give me a BOOK every time, please!

Janet said...

Would you think of not doing the sleeves for the colour block sweater? I think it would look good as a waistcoat.

angie Cox said...

Thank-you for taking the time Joe ,it's the one top left of the three. It is really beautiful .angie

FUZZARELLY said...

Interesting topic concerning text, which I believe will be around long after I am gone. Even the new ebooks offer text on a screen, much like a book.

I am phone phobic, so email and even actual letters are what I prefer when communicating.

Fuzzarelly

Marilyn said...

As a writer, I will never forgo text. I loathe eBooks, audio books and my own "SmartPhone" Blackberry phone. Like you, I use it primarily for work, and to read e-mail when I'm on the road. Oddly, I almost never send text messages. More trouble than it's worth, trying to type on those tiny keys.

The true text revolution, in my mind, was the word processing application. That changed my world completely, more than any other technology since. The ability to delete or copy and paste entire chunks of text without having to retype the whole damned thing was and still is to me sheer magic. I don't need a phone that acts as a computer in my life. I'm a Luddite at heart, even though I'm a technical writer and must know about very complex business applications.

But don't take away my word processing capability. It's the only thing I'll keep on my PC when and if I retire. If I don't throw the PC in the garbage and just knit, spin, and weave in my old age.

Ria said...

Virtual laser keyboards . . . Sometimes I swear I must have been born into the wrong time period, because I look at something like that and can't believe that it's possible, and that it's got such a low price attached to it!

Michelene said...

For the love of cheesy sci-fi, I'd like to point out that Commander Adama(Lorne Greene-hehe) used Asimov's text reader to keep his journal in the orignal Battlestar Galactica. Of course the creators of the show also combined Mormonism with astrology, ahhh the late 70's.
Both Asimov and Bradbury were amazingly prescient in their visions of future technology in their writing.

Julie said...

Love the sweaters--the colors are gorgeous.

And is that Kafka in the background?