I used to sit on the 21st floor. Now I am retired

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A problem that my father won't comprehend

Situation 1
Let's say, someone messages you, "Are you okay? Have you recovered from your post-Holland funk? Or are you whining like A, who broke up?"

You want to write back, "Dude, Brazil will make up for it. Plus, I'm not even close to A." The second statement is like a pun, as
a) You are not close to A. He is, but, a casual acquaintance. Only, he doesn't think so and insists on whining to you at times.
b) You are not even close to whining. You still think Brazil will win, remember. (How you were wrong? and How geriatrics like C.A. Parreira should stop coaching Brazil?)

You are not sure that the close to A will be noticed clearly. Hence, you want to emphasise it.

Situation 2
You want to send a reminder to your accountant about three things, a) you need some tax-planning advice, b) you need to talk about the latest form (can he fill it for you?) and c) you want to find which team is he betting on?

You call him. He doesn't pick up. You sms him. Somehow you stick to the 160-character limit and write all of the above down.
Now, you do want to tell him the last bit is the most important. However, you don't want to add more characters "like most importantly" as it means sending two messages instead of one and you hate it. Plus, "like most importantly" is not emphasis. That is the use of plain boring extra words. Is there, someway, you can emphasise the last part?

Obviously quotes won't do in this case. They are just plain silly. It's as silly as showing "quotes" through your curled fingers. Nor, will other punctuation marks [like square brackets]. You can write in CAPS. However, neither do you want to make your pun obvious, nor do you want to shout at the accountant. You crave subtle emphasis.

To be precise, what you are really looking for is the italic. Invented in 1490s in Italy, the use of the italic was to conserve space and fit in more letters into the same page. This is similar to the situation 2, where you wanted bang for 160 characters. Now, of course, the italic is used to emphasise without distracting the eyeballs too much (like bold does).

If you could write, "Dude, Brazil will make up for it. Plus, I'm not even close to A", it will make your point. If you could write, "Hi, a) I need some tax-planning advice, b) I need to talk about the latest form (can you fill it for me?) and c) I want to find which team are you betting on", it will make your life simpler and effective.

However, your cellphone doesn't give you italics. It gives you 1.2 Megapixel camera, with some fancy frames to frame the picture in. It gives you a fancy graphic equaliser with your MP3 player. It gives you currency converter and world clock and ability to write memos. It gives you Bluetooth and GPRS and Infrared, which is way too much connectivity for an android, leave alone poets.
It gives you thirty-three color schemes and forty-five ring tones and a big display. In fact, even sms-ing isn't left vanilla. They add twenty smileys to reduce your hassle of typing a colon, a hyphen and a bracket to show you are happy. The mobile phone gives you everything you want and more, but doesn't give you italics.

It's like the designer stopped and said, "Wait a minute, will you? Now that I have added the Portfolio Manager, I really can't think of anything else the user won't need. Let's go play Pong". Or probably they did the beta testing survey amongst engineers (and other species of people who don't use italics) when designing the product. Whatever the reason, not giving italics (and bold) is the biggest travesty since Nokia took out Snake from it's new generation phones. Aldo Manutius would not have approved.


Blogger Arthur Quiller Couch said...

Dude, you're the Ralph Nader of the cell-phone. Sock it to 'em!

Sunday, July 02, 2006 6:38:00 AM

Blogger dhoomketu said...

Wish I knew who to sock it to... Thanks!

Sunday, July 02, 2006 6:45:00 AM

Blogger Ruchika said...

Yeah, I know what you mean.. I had the same thought some time back.. too bad we get all the useless stuff on cellphones but nothing we can really really use to communicate better!

Monday, July 03, 2006 1:50:00 AM


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