This was a keyboard much more significant than my 4700. It belonged to an important airline reservation computer. Its late art deco style reminded computer keyboards existed decades before home computers. Its function keys – above the keyboard! – were among the first, and even the blue colour was part of the tale (IBM was known as “Big Blue”). This was exactly the kind of visual storytelling I wanted in my book.
But the photo was just a random snapshot, not good enough for the book. I reached out to the photographer to ask where they found the keyboard, and he got back to me rather quickly, mentioning he found it years ago at North Carolina Transportation Museum.
This sent me pacing through my room. I looked at my map, bookmarked with many keyboard-related destinations, but both North Carolina and even states next to it were blank. Would I travel to this museum and back just to take a higher resolution photo of this keyboard? Or would I hire someone to do it for me? And, even if I did, what would I do with this keyboard’s rough shape? Its bad condition wasn’t telling an actual story, and I didn’t imagine the museum would allow someone to arrive with windex, denatured alcohol, and baking soda.
I spent a day or two trying to figure it all out. Eventually, I found the unlikely answer to both of the dilemmas. It was… Photoshop.
I downloaded the photo, and the very same things I once achieved with paper towels and solvents, I replicated using pixels on my screen. I got rid of the old tape, I cleaned up gunk from some keys, I took care of the yellowing. I then removed the background and recreated the shadow. Just like before, it was a sequence of small, unimportant steps that led me there. But then I put the original photo and the new one side by side, and I gasped again.