Shift Happens book updates

Low-traffic (once every 50 days) newsletter with keyboard stories and updates on the progress of the book about the history of keyboards. Subscribe and get instant access to cool secret stuff! Posts by Marcin Wichary.

Low-traffic (once every 50 days) newsletter with keyboard stories and updates on the progress of the book about the history of keyboards. Subscribe and get instant access to cool secret stuff! Posts by Marcin Wichary.

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#30・

The soul of an old solenoid

Have you ever seen a pinball machine being scared?Pinballs, already fascinating during their mechanical era, accelerated in complexity with the advent of microprocessors. Like many other things in the 1980s, pinballs too became computers, and this allowed the…

 
#29・

The trip to Spain: The good parts

The famous saying goes “the best camera is the one you have on you,” but I keep changing my mind about what it means.In the early days of my interest in photography, this felt simple. “The best camera is the one you have on you” meant “don’t forget to bring y…

 
#28・

The modifiers vs. the keepers

Throughout the history of keyboards, a battle has been fought by two opposing camps.On one side, there were keyboards with the modifier keys – the Shifts, the Controls, the Commands. They appeared in QWERTY’s suburbia the moment typewriters needed uppercase a…

 
#27・

“Something magical happened to me today.”

There’s no easy way to put this.The book is ready to go. The writing, proofreading, typesetting are completely done, and photography’s incredibly close. The campaign video is 100% ready. The cool little site I made for the occasion needs just a few extra days…

 
#26・

Moiré no more

I learned a thing long time ago, and it was: Once you print something, you can’t get it back.On the surface, this statement doesn’t make any sense. Scanners are cheap, and in 2021 some digital cameras are as good as scanners, too. Optical character recognitio…

 
#25・

The worst keyboard ever made

I’m writing this newsletter under duress. The last issue, one I sent just a week ago, arrived in spam folders for most people owing to a glitch in Revue – and I really wanted you to know about the livestream that’s happening this Saturday.But this also presen…

 
#24・

How I learned to hate InDesign

Quick updates first: I am aiming to release the book in 2022. There are still many unknowns, but people who know the printing process better than I am tell me this is doable. (I still have to go to to a museum in Spain, but hoping this becomes possible.)Let’s…

 
#23・

In the land of the lounge lizards

I open the door, exit the bar, and walk outside onto the sidewalk in a surprisingly straight line. It’s a nice, warm night. I hear muffled music coming from the inside, and the buzzing of the blinking neon that’s trying very hard to spell “Lefty’s.” I take a …

 
#22・

The last interview

Every Saturday at 8am, a certain ritual takes place. All my snoozed book-related emails resurface that time, my inbox lighting up with dozens of reminders. I respond to a few that need responding, poke a few people I haven’t heard from in months, archive emai…

 
#21・

A tale of three skeuomorphs

You’ve always been a bit suspicious of the trashcan on your computer’s imaginary desk top, and I’m here to tell you why. I know what you’re thinking – I figured it out already, in real life no one keeps a trashcan on top of their desk. Yes, this adds to the t…

 
#20・

Dear Cynthia

Sometime in 2019, I fell in love with a photo in a way I’ve never known before:

 
#19・

Greatest hits 2016–2019

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: Twitt…

 
#18・

As close as possible to real surfing

It makes perfect sense that the awkward term WYSIWYG – “what you see is what you get” – came into prominence only during the era of computers. For typewriters, what you saw was never not, with the paper output being both the first and the last step in the pro…

 
#17・

To save a keyboard, pt. 3

I don’t know how this works in other museums, but at the Computer History Museum in California, a decade ago, the front-of-house volunteer ladder had three steps.The first one was being a greeter – saying hello to visitors, explaining the museum’s layout and …

 
#16・

When keyboards were desks

I felt a little bad for the few weeks of delay in sending the previous newsletter, so here’s an extra edition. Just like with the jokes issue, there’s no story here – just a stroll through two folders in my database: “Built into desks” and “Tech posed in natu…

 
#15・

To save a keyboard, pt. 2

This is that rare story where a Twitter disagreement led to something amazing.In May last year, someone tweeted a photo of a rare, specialized, 50-key keyboard:

 
#14・

To save a keyboard, pt. 1

I’m writing this on a TA Adler-Royal Satellite 40. It’s among the last typewriters ever made, the final breath of a dying species, arriving just before personal computers with Word took over.

 
#13・

The Italian senate survival manual

“The major, fundamental drawback of the keyboard still consists in its irregular and illogical layout,” wrote one critic a few decades ago. If we could start from scratch, he continued, “it would doubtless be possible to design a more convenient keyboard than…

 
#12・

The worst keyboard ever made

During my research I encountered many keyboards that felt awful, looked bad, or were conceptually bankrupt. But it was only a few months ago that I found the vilest of keyboards, a truly cursed idea that I almost don’t want to talk about – since that will mak…

 
#11・

To walk among keyboard magicians

I recently gave a talk at a Berlin conference Beyond Tellerrand about keyboards used for fun and for art. I tried to breeze past the obvious stops (ASCII art, emoji, etc.), and focus on the lesser-known in-betweeners: typewriter mysteries, overtyping, PLATO e…