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.
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:
Starting an ongoing thread with the most well-designed/beautiful keyboards.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) April 20, 2017
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:
This is probably the best illustrated touch typing manual I’ve ever seen. Check out these sci-fi visuals of everyday typing artifacts! pic.twitter.com/Ej3JbaffQN— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) October 26, 2018
This is a forgotten story of Typit, the typewriter extension to solve a problem we all take for granted today:
In my keyboard research, one of the most amazing and constant features is how early some of the ideas appeared.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) February 22, 2019
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:
I love this story of the most unusual cryptographic device you can think of… a Barbie Typewriter! https://t.co/49AilKjkT5 pic.twitter.com/dHEuHI2a2v— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) November 24, 2016
And, speaking of cryptography – a story of that one time I keylogged myself:
I started keylogging myself a few months ago as part of research. It’s eerie to look at those logs now.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) March 5, 2017
This is me just browsing the web. pic.twitter.com/7b1DZP5HoR
This is a thread about the unexpected origins of the ⌘ key:
This is Borgholm Castle, a 13th-century fortress on an island in Sweden.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) September 8, 2017
If it looks familiar, it’s because it’s also on your Mac keyboard. pic.twitter.com/60jsR964PP
Never meet your heroes, or an internet appliance with an unusual button:
What we thought of the internet in 2001, according to the keyboard of one of the internet appliances. pic.twitter.com/aFD7BiPDUi— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) March 2, 2018
And, an ongoing thread of weird keys in general:
Favourite new existential keyboard key. pic.twitter.com/jqrEcoThTG— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) July 27, 2017
I ask people to send me the most unusual keyboards they can think of without any context, as a challenge:
Marcin K. Wichary, Esq.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) December 9, 2018
Keyboard Identification Servicehttps://t.co/FprN5DLGQR
Other times, people help me out in identification. This Spectrum joystick should look familiar if you read the last newsletter:
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?— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) November 17, 2019
I would love to learn more about it, but unsure how. (Perhaps it was just a one off?) pic.twitter.com/HNQ1OAWzOD
A few months earlier, Twitter friends helped me figure out the make of a rather unusual and rare computer:
Does anyone know what computer this is? I am stumped.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) February 16, 2019
(This is from a 1984 BBC programme, if that helps narrow it down.) pic.twitter.com/lB9WMDRWJK
Through this Twitter thread, you might learn to hate novelty calculators:
Novelty calculator keyboards is what I’d call Sad Creativity.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) April 7, 2017
“You should’ve stepped away from the whiteboard long time ago, son.” pic.twitter.com/nMLCbWDI4A
…or wristwatch keyboards:
It’s that time of week when @ruffian and I try to find the most intense watch keyboard ever made.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) January 7, 2017
Help us! pic.twitter.com/gaItUk1cPl
Or Soviet clones of Spectrum computers (of course, it’s entirely possible you’ll learn to love them instead):
I wanted to walk you through the fascinating world of Soviet and East European clones of ZX Spectrum. This is the original, from 1982. pic.twitter.com/4cYK6yW1GM— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) May 10, 2017
“This note in a used book I just bought broke my heart”:
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. pic.twitter.com/eQxIyXKHGW— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) November 24, 2016
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:
An artist @tanaka_tatsuya has been posting a new art with miniature people every single day since April 2011.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) February 9, 2019
Many of them include keyboards, but there is so much more variety and delight in his worlds.https://t.co/In6JJWz5pU pic.twitter.com/cz0GYKqRsu
“3–8 minute shorts about old men repairing typewriters.”
There is this mini genre of documentaries: “3–8 minute shorts about old men repairing typewriters.”— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) January 7, 2019
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.
Once I asked about movies that feature typing, and people floored me with their answers (fun game: count how often my response is “Ooooh.”):
If I were to ask you what movies and TV shows featured typing in a memorable way, what would you say?— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) April 18, 2019
Sex and the City?
What else? pic.twitter.com/9JBr5jgkL3
A grab bag of fun links about auto-suggest/auto-complete/spell check/predictive text:
A grab bag of fun links about auto-suggest/auto-complete/spell check/predictive text. Send me more!— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) January 4, 2018
1. “President Abraham Lincoln was buttbuttinated by an armed buttailant after a life devoted to the reform of the US consbreastution.” https://t.co/B8J2sU3Qms
This thread of people sending in translations of the term “touch typing” in different languages was extraordinary:
If you speak a language other than English, what would you call “touch typing” and “hunt and peck” (two-finger typing)?— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) May 22, 2017
I went to Japan and I started documenting every keyboard I saw… and then gave up. There were too many:
First keyboard I interacted with in Japan was already kind of amazing. Mechanical numeric keypad in an ATM! pic.twitter.com/U0bnG3rWui— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) February 1, 2018
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:
On my vacation in a rural California museum that has dozens of typewriters, calculators, Linotype machines, and teletypes.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) September 10, 2019
(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! pic.twitter.com/yeUr43cu2N
A by-appointment-only office tech museum in Delaware had some great artifacts inside:
I’ve had amazing luck recently discovering or stumbling upon small museums that ended up not small at all.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) January 6, 2017
Another museum in Catalonia revealed so, so many old-school computers with fantastic keyboards (and this thread’s Esc jokes feel timely again!):
I’m beginning to suspect Catalonia is some sort of heaven for people interested in keyboards.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) November 19, 2016
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):
So, something magical happened to me today, and I wanted to tell you all about it.— Marcin Wichary (@mwichary) October 27, 2016
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
This was newsletter №19 for Shift happens, an upcoming book about keyboards. Read previous issues · Check out all the secret documents