The rectangle behind you

On May 27, 2021, during an internal lightning talk session at Figma, I gave a remote “Ignite” 5-minute talk.

(This is a live recording; there was no video editing after the talk.)

I love Ignite talks and occassionally experiment with them, but this was the first one I’ve done remotely, and I’ve never spent so much time and effort putting together tech for it (mostly using OBS, which is an exciting experimental software used by streamers and remote presenters), and practicing.

In this post, I’ll be sharing a lot of details of how I did this. I don’t assume…

The rectangle behind you

This is a five-minute Ignite talk I gave at ORD Camp 2019:

I got excited about the idea of using the room’s ambient lights after seeing a demo of the light setup and console in the conference room at Google in 2018, and witnessing that room change colours:

Yesterday, on Twitter, I asked:

I wonder sometimes what would be the oldest extant word based on technology no longer in use. Taping an interview? Dialing someone?

I received many more answers than I expected, although it soon became obvious how my rules were impossible to follow, even by me: What exactly is technology, and which technology ever truly goes away?

Scrolling (who remembers scrolls?) feels different than fonts (used more than ever, in a digital form directly evolved from a physical predecessor), and somewhere in between these would be a tablet — a new tech inspired by old one…

The rectangle behind you

I crave follow-ups. When I was little, I loved opening the encyclopedia to learn more about something I just heard — particularly when it felt the volumes were roughly as big as I was. Later on, I cherished coming back from the movie just to read Roger Ebert’s review, or ⌘+clicking every link in the young Wikipedia.

Today, I still like looking up a newly-discovered word in a dictionary, an obscure product on Internet Archive, or a historical event on Google. In the middle of a conversation, you might find me scribbling something down to look up myself — or…

The rectangle behind you

As a grandson of someone who worked on the railways I might be predisposed to extreme punctuality, but as a speaker it’d my job to be timely either way. Going over your time limit in a talk is unprofessional and disrespectful towards the organizers and — more importantly — the audience.

Practice makes better. However, recently, for my Beyond Tellerrand talk about creative uses of keyboards, that would not be enough. I wanted to try out a brand-new experimental exercise with audience participation… but I had no idea how long it was going to take. …

How Doug Engelbart’s famous demo inspired a designer’s lifelong obsession with keyboard shortcuts

Today we introduced a new way to master keyboard shortcuts: a redesigned panel that shows up at the bottom of your Figma screen. It will respond to your behavior by highlighting patterns in your keyboard use and help you discover new key combinations in a fun way. We’ve taken our inspiration from computing pioneer Douglas Engelbart, and wanted to briefly share how his work shaped our approach. (Read to the end for the deep dive into our new keyboard panel.)

One Monday afternoon fifty years ago, on a stage by San Francisco’s Civic Center, computer pioneer Douglas Engelbart gave a…

Shift Happens newsletter

This is a newsletter for Shift happens, an upcoming book about keyboards.

I’ve had, so far, a lot of luck with keyboard-related adventures. Two years ago I stumbled upon a magical typewriter museum in Spain, just a week later I visited what felt like its equally astonishing computer counterpart, and my recent trip to Japan also became a keyboard safari.

The lucky streak continues. Earlier this year, I was looking at my friend’s map, and noticed a few yellow stars fifty miles north of San Francisco. One was some sort of an interesting cypress tree tunnel. Another one, right next…

Shift Happens newsletter

This is a newsletter for Shift happens, an upcoming book about keyboards.

It was four of us, four teenage boys sitting down to a computer to spend hours playing a videogame known to no one else.

It was four of us because the little corner of a room in a small panelák apartment, partitioned away to be “Marcin’s area,” could hardly fit more people. It was four of us because dividing the 14-inch computer screen into even more pieces would make them unreadable. …

Shift Happens newsletter

This is a newsletter for Shift happens, an upcoming book about keyboards.

This happened about two years ago. It was close to the end of a workday. I was a little stressed out, more than a little tired, a coworker was standing next to me asking for a certain file, and so I went to my computer’s terminal, keyed in three simple characters: c:\

…and then I froze.

c:\ is a perfectly fine incantation for when you want to find a file, and you intend to start at the very top. It will work on every PC ever made. Other…

Marcin Wichary

Designer/typographer · Writing a book on the history of keyboards:

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