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Keyboard contact

Today, communication has been reduced to short sounds and arbitrary abbreviations, writes Annie DattaFrom the Varisty.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2005 19:50 IST

While passing by a shop in Coimbra it took us time to realize the personality of the place. On display were typewriters. Some machines were more than hundred years old. Were we not already in the computer age? Laptops have long since replaced mechanical metal-heavy types. Traditional tools of writing are fast entering the grey area to be recovered someday for museum display. Our only link to the past is the memory: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy little dog”. A must-know line containing all the letters of the alphabet.

Writing is key to communication. Letter writing was a challenging task during school days as it required knowledge of style and substance. Today, communication has been reduced to short sounds and arbitrary abbreviations. Emoticons are a new feature in keyboard communication.

Human emotion often finds expression in a ‘smiley.’ These pictorial symbols convey your mood across in a jiffy. A rare freedom from the struggle to find the right words for the right occasion. This kind of fast chat saves a great deal of effort including a walk to the post office. Compose a few lines of computer jargon and click it away to the recipient without budging from the armchair. In what appear as romantic times, communication used to be a serious affair. It implied commitment. It was deep and personal.

Reading a letter brought forth memories of familiar faces in distant lands. Not far back in time in India one would receive post cards from aging relatives that meant a palm length of queries. Every member of the family was named individually while spreading love and good wishes. It was equivalent of today’s ‘how r u?’ Such curt and concise correspondence also reflects changing relationships.

Keyboard communication has left behind the physical and the unwieldy to enter the sleek and the virtual that is defined by the all important ‘e’. There is ‘e-mail’, ‘e-card’, ‘e-books’ and even (who knows?) ‘e-emotion’. With mobiles in hand, communication becomes alphanumeric, short and quick. A café becomes a rendezvous for mobile lovers than for intellectuals as was once the case. With every sip of coffee, out pops a message on the screen. Cell phones even find a mention in film soundtracks as in Bridget Jones’s Diary (‘Ring Ring Ring’ by Aaron Soul) or a distinctive role in the movie Cellular where the film’s plot takes birth and further movement from a chance conversation between two strangers via a cell phone.

Buying paper and ink is considered a sheer waste of time and effort when there is a computer by one’s side. It’s another matter that one needs paper and ink cartridges for the attached printer. Come to think of it, one writes very little on a given day. Phone numbers can be copied directly on to the cell phone and reminders can be accommodated in mobile memory. One submits computer-neat assignments. A ‘pen’ is modified to record from the personal computer (pc) an entire presentation to be shown in class. There was however a time when a fountain pen-set would be a favourite gift for friends. Today it is arcane. A recent Bollywood film sums up the same calling such a giveaway a cute ‘memento.’.