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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
HuwG BS: Obsolete in your lifetime? (162* d) RE: BS: Obsolete in your lifetime? 05 May 12

In my grumpy old man mode, I miss the demise of the typewriter, and grammar, spelling and punctuation, which seem to have coincided. Of course, this may be a post hoc, ergo procter hoc fallacy.

My mother was a secretary for several charities. She would type correspondence after my brother and I had gone to bed. Could we sleep? Could we heck! My mother would put the typewriter on a table which acted as a sounding board, and the resulting "tat-tat-tat-boom, tat-tat-ting-zip-tat-tat-tat" could sound like the sound track to a war film (though I don't know what might go "ting" on a battlefield).

There would be not a single mis-spelling, punctuation error or slip of grammar. Very occasionally, the Canon manual typewriter would be unable to keep up, and two keys would get tangled, resulting in the need for a dab of Tippex.

Bear it in mind that my mother left school at fifteen.

I now have to put up with managers and directors with degrees, who communicate in writing using the sort of shorthand normally used by pre-pubescents to exchange banalities with their closest friends (sorry, did I say "their" friends? I meant "there" friends, of course) and verbally using strings of obscenities and references to "You know, kind of like a sort of thing".

In 1983, I started work programming on PDP-11s and the Rair Black Box. The Rair had 64Kb of memory, of which about 16Kb was taken up by the CP/M operating system. (You could cheat by assuming that the command processor could be dispensed with by an executing process and overwritten, but this would make things very slow when chaining the next process.) Programmers could also cheat by e.g. putting initialisation code in data buffers not used until later in execution, but even so, we learned to make very tight code indeed.

What happens nowadays? The latest version of Micro$haft Office demands that any machine over six or seven years old be discarded as hopelessly antiquated and inadequate. I mean only 2Gb of memory and 1.73GHz processor speed? You really need better hardware to write letters and send and receive emails, even if you have been doing OK for the last three decades.


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