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Greatest hits 2016–2019

Shift Happens book updates
Greatest hits 2016–2019
By Shift Happens book updates • Issue #19 • View online

It’s hard for me to explain how I feel about Twitter. On one hand, there is the abuse, the Nazis, and Jack Dorsey’s almost legendary indolence. When it doesn’t chip away at your attention, Twitter creates – and then supercharges – your outrage.
But also: Twitter has been helpful and, as cheesy as it sounds, made me a better person. Yes, I sometimes become snarky and (very occasionally) even cruel, but I also try hard to follow activists, pay attention to thoughtful people, and listen to many who simply… don’t look like me.
As for the book, I quoted Twitter many times in this newsletter, and there’s a reason: it is on Twitter that I found a great community of people that engage me, share things with me, cheer me on when I share my process, and up when I struggle. This has been a crucial part of writing, and I’m thankful for it.
So, this newsletter will be rather simple: just links to my best/most popular Twitter threads related to the book. You’ll have to brave Twitter’s oft-confusing user interface – but I swear it’ll be worth it.
Two things you should know:
1. Each tweet below holds a longer thread. To see it, click/tap on the blue bird icon in the upper right corner.
2. If you find yourself in a situation where my tweets suddenly stop and other people’s responses take over, look for a tiny orange “XX more replies” link to continue reading my thread.
Beautiful things
Since April 2017, I’ve been collecting examples of beautifully-made keyboards – starting with the more obvious ones, but since having moved to less charted territories:
Marcin Wichary
Starting an ongoing thread with the most well-designed/beautiful keyboards.

Please agree, disagree, or jump in with your suggestions! \ö/
It’s not just keyboards. Even some of the touch typing manuals can be great-looking:
Marcin Wichary
This is probably the best illustrated touch typing manual I’ve ever seen. Check out these sci-fi visuals of everyday typing artifacts!
A few fun stories
This is a forgotten story of Typit, the typewriter extension to solve a problem we all take for granted today:
Marcin Wichary
In my keyboard research, one of the most amazing and constant features is how *early* some of the ideas appeared.

Often, the things that seem to only make sense in the computer universe, existed much earlier, in the physical world.
Step aside Enigma, the most interesting crypto keyboard is… the Barbie Typewriter:
Marcin Wichary
I love this story of the most unusual cryptographic device you can think of… a Barbie Typewriter!
And, speaking of cryptography – a story of that one time I keylogged myself:
Marcin Wichary
I started keylogging myself a few months ago as part of research. It’s eerie to look at those logs now.

This is me just browsing the web.
About a few keys
This is a thread about the unexpected origins of the ⌘ key:
Marcin Wichary
This is Borgholm Castle, a 13th-century fortress on an island in Sweden.

If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s also on your Mac keyboard.
Never meet your heroes, or an internet appliance with an unusual button:
Marcin Wichary
What we thought of the internet in 2001, according to the keyboard of one of the internet appliances.
And, an ongoing thread of weird keys in general:
Solving mysteries
I ask people to send me the most unusual keyboards they can think of without any context, as a challenge:
Marcin Wichary
Marcin K. Wichary, Esq.
Keyboard Identification Service
Other times, people help me out in identification. This Spectrum joystick should look familiar if you read the last newsletter:
Marcin Wichary
Did anyone ever see something like this? A ZX Spectrum joystick that is mounted atop the keyboard and – I imagine – actually presses the relevant four arrow keys?

I would love to learn more about it, but unsure how. (Perhaps it was just a one off?)
A few months earlier, Twitter friends helped me figure out the make of a rather unusual and rare computer:
Marcin Wichary
Does anyone know what computer this is? I am stumped.

(This is from a 1984 BBC programme, if that helps narrow it down.)
Not everything’s super great
Through this Twitter thread, you might learn to hate novelty calculators:
Marcin Wichary
Novelty calculator keyboards is what I’d call Sad Creativity.

“You should’ve stepped away from the whiteboard long time ago, son.”
…or wristwatch keyboards:
Marcin Wichary
It’s that time of week when @ruffian and I try to find the most intense watch keyboard ever made.

Help us!
Or Soviet clones of Spectrum computers (of course, it’s entirely possible you’ll learn to love them instead):
Marcin Wichary
I wanted to walk you through the fascinating world of Soviet and East European clones of ZX Spectrum. This is the original, from 1982.
Smaller threads (on smaller things)
“This note in a used book I just bought broke my heart”:
Marcin Wichary
This note in a used book I just bought broke my heart: thirty years ago, wife reminiscing her husband who I imagine passed away by then.
Great miniature art by Tanaka Tatsuya. He’s been doing it for so long that just the keyboard-related entires make for a great thread:
Marcin Wichary
An artist @tanaka_tatsuya has been posting a new art with miniature people every single day since April 2011.

Many of them include keyboards, but there is so much more variety and delight in his worlds.
“3–8 minute shorts about old men repairing typewriters.”
Marcin Wichary
There is this mini genre of documentaries: “3–8 minute shorts about old men repairing typewriters.”

It’s so interesting to watch a few in the row, and see the similarities and the (big/small) differences in the subjects and in the ways the filmmakers approach their task.
Pop culture
Once I asked about movies that feature typing, and people floored me with their answers (fun game: count how often my response is “Ooooh.”):
Marcin Wichary
If I were to ask you what movies and TV shows featured typing in a memorable way, what would you say?

Sex and the City?
The Shining?

What else?
A grab bag of fun links about auto-suggest/auto-complete/spell check/predictive text:
Marcin Wichary
A grab bag of fun links about auto-suggest/auto-complete/spell check/predictive text. Send me more!

1. “President Abraham Lincoln was buttbuttinated by an armed buttailant after a life devoted to the reform of the US consbreastution.”
Around the world
This thread of people sending in translations of the term “touch typing” in different languages was extraordinary:
Marcin Wichary
If you speak a language other than English, what would you call “touch typing” and “hunt and peck” (two-finger typing)?
I went to Japan and I started documenting every keyboard I saw… and then gave up. There were too many:
Marcin Wichary
First keyboard I interacted with in Japan was already kind of amazing. Mechanical numeric keypad in an ATM!
At a museum in Laws, California, I also found a surprising number of keyboards – and then convinced the staff to let me into secret areas just so I could take some photos for the book: 
Marcin Wichary
On my vacation in a rural California museum that has dozens of typewriters, calculators, Linotype machines, and teletypes.

(And two cats.)

I’ll ask them if they allow me into behind-the-glass areas to take better photos with my camera. Wish me luck!
A by-appointment-only office tech museum in Delaware had some great artifacts inside:
Marcin Wichary
I’ve had amazing luck recently discovering or stumbling upon small museums that ended up not small at all.
Another museum in Catalonia revealed so, so many old-school computers with fantastic keyboards (and this thread’s Esc jokes feel timely again!):
Marcin Wichary
I’m beginning to suspect Catalonia is some sort of heaven for people interested in keyboards.
And speaking of Catalonia – this here, in late 2016, is my most popular Twitter thread, and a truly miraculous discovery that gave me so much joy and energy (in hindsight so necessary to continue working on this book for so long):
Marcin Wichary
So, something magical happened to me today, and I wanted to tell you all about it.
What does the next year bring? I don’t know much, but I have two ideas:
The first is to actually return to that very museum in Figueres, Spain – get to know the owners/collectors, take among the last photos I need for the book, and reunite with that magical place.
The second one? 
The book should come out in late 2020. I think. I hope. I so far avoided promising dates since there have always been so many unknowns on the horizon. But while I am still uncertain of many upcoming tasks, my understanding of the rest of the process is that this – a late 2020 publishing date – should be eminently doable. 
So please keep your fingers crossed, send your best wishes, and… I guess, follow me on Twitter. It’s usually fun, and I’d love your comments and feedback, although sometimes my tweets misfire – as is the case with this recent depressing Christmas thread.
But I won’t leave on that note. Following the last year’s tradition, I have a message for you, written on a one-of-a-kind keyboard. I very much encourage you to view the movie in higher quality, with sound on, but either way:
That 16-segment-display exclamation point is just the best
That 16-segment-display exclamation point is just the best
This was newsletter №19 for Shift happens, an upcoming book about keyboards. Read previous issues · Check out all the secret documents
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