Monday, June 07, 2010

When keyboard was king

kw: computers, history

My first desktop computer at work (1982) and my first home desktop computer (1984), both by TI, did not have mouse or hard disk. Once the operating system (MS-DOS) was loaded from a 360 Kbyte floppy, I'd use a runtime disk for WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3 in drive A, and a data disk in drive B.

It wasn't until I got my second computer in 1987 that I got both mouse and HDD, and I could run MS Windows 3. However, the mouse was a "new thing", and the menu-oriented software it could take advantage of was still rare. I used keyboard-oriented WordPerfect 4 and switched to Quattro Pro in place of Lotus 1-2-3.

Yesterday, cleaning out old stuff, I came across the Function Key templates for these two programs (click on the image for a really close look). I was really good with function keys for both these programs. It stood me in good stead at work, where WordPerfect was guidelined until 1995, and QP was an acceptable substitute for 1-2-3. Only when I transferred to corporate research in 1995 did I get in an environment in which MS Office products were guidelined, and nobody wanted me to send them files in WP or QP (or even 123) formats. I switched.

I've been fully into using Word and Excel (and PowerPoint) ever since. I still use as many keyboard shortcuts as I can remember, learned mainly from the help screens. But I've become such a heavy mouse user that I had to have an operation for deQuervain's tendinitis a couple years ago. I also switched the mouse to the left hand. Considering that I use the 10-key pad for most numbers, this balances the work between my two hands.

Just as I have fond memories of the Elephants I couldn't see over, I fondly remember the floppy-and-keyboard days, which I'm careful not to equate with walking to school "uphill both ways".

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