The Undecided Philosopher

The ideas and rants of a former philosopher and a present-day geek....Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Strangeness arrives from a familiar device...

I had such a strange experience this morning I decided it was worthy of its own small entry in the blog process for this trip. I do not consider myself an isolationist and I certainly understand that their are significant differences from country to country and culture to culture. Needless to say, I understand that the United States does not represent the only perspective on how to do things. Have a meal; order a coffee; take a cab anywhere outside of the US and you will soon realize there are numerous other ways to do things in this world; some better and some worse. I like to think I found an example today of the wrong way to do things. Selfishly I believe the US has it right.

In the interest of time and money, I decided not to renew my internet connection in the room this morning. It is 25 Euro per 24 hours, and i wanted to allow myself some overlap tonight and tomorrow so I decided to avoid the charge this morning and go up to the public business center to check my email via web browser and surf for a few things. The hotel has a few very nice Sony Vaio PCs running MS Vista, so I assumed it would be an easy task to jump online, check a few things, and take off for the morning. As I sat down and began to type, I quickly realized something was very, very wrong. It took me a few minutes to change the browser to support English, and that was to be expected. What I didn't expect was to find the keyboard a jumbled mess of letters and characters I didn't recognize or understand. I don't know why I didn't know that France, and I am in turn assuming other parts of Europe and the world, have different, non-QWERTY versions of computer keyboards. This particular keyboard had all the normal english letters and numbers I was accustomed to see, but they weren't where they were supposed to be. As I typed normally, M's became N's and the Q was a row down, taking the place of the A. The numbers across the top were not the primary keys. There were 3 characters per key and two different function keys to use them. It honestly took me 5 minutes to figure out how to type an @ symbol. I never did find a DELETE key. Frustration quickly ensued and I suffered through long enough to look at my email, realize there was nothing I had to act on immediately, and then turn and leave as quickly as possible.

I have worked with and around computers for nearly 20 years and never have I felt so inept and lost as I did this morning attempting to type on that computer. I think the only saving grace was that the mouse worked the same way. I suppose despite my self-perceived enlightened attitude, I am still an ignorant American, working under the assumption we are far superior in every way, at least when it comes to typing.

The evil keyboard in question....


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