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Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Keyboards

I went to the Musée des Arts et Metiers (The Museum of Arts and Industry). It is geek fun galore. they had an actual Cray Super Computer, pointing out that more than ten of them were still in use in the 90's. (Many of which were still in use in France - this country is slow to upgrade.) They had ancient IBM machines. Old lasers. Objects of acoustical research (sadly no ancient synthesizers) and a large display of early record and cylinder players. It's a nifty museum, and it's huge, so if some subject (such as lathes or printing presses) bores you, can breeze by and still fill up most of an afternoon and not feel as if you haven't gotten your money's worth (so to speak).

In the communications sections there were things like old telegraph machines. some of them were automatic. Type in what you wanted and it would do the encoding for you. This was apparently pre-type writer so they needed to invent a keyboard. The solution? Inscribe letters on a musical keyboard and have people play in their telegrams. This is obviously a nuts solution, but it isn't any crazier than attaching a keyboard to the first Moog modular was.

After looking at cars that looked like carriages and musical-looking typewriters I started thinking about the ways the forms of our own technology is ill suited to it's function. Maybe it's crazy that I'm typing this in a typewriter keyboard.

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