Shift Happens newsletter

#6: A love letter to the in-betweeners

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

What am I typing this issue on?

Here’s one thing that’s been bringing me a surprising amount of joy when writing the book. No, it wasn’t figuring out final answers to puzzling questions (there really aren’t many), or finding Some Thing’s definitive first appearance (history, it turns out, generally dislikes the word “first” as much as it does “best”). It was encountering all the seemingly confused concepts, machines that didn’t quite belong, ideas before or after their time. The in-betweeners.

One more in-between aspect: Olivetti purchased the American stalwart typewriter manufacturer Underwood in 1959. My machine has markings of both of those companies.
This is not a filter, the paper inside is actually light blue to match the surroundings

What’s going on with the book?

I finished reading the first draft. It was an unusual experience. It felt so familiar, and yet I learned new things — even new words — from my own writing. It was peculiar, being able to read a book and rewrite it on the spot if needed. There were (few) moments I stopped in frustration; other times I ended up thoroughly elated.

A mini milestone

From the first day, I wanted to celebrate all the milestones, no matter how small — to reduce the pressure on the actual book having to live up to unreasonable expectations, and to help carry me through the arduous process. The most recent one? Someone just called me “author of Shift Happens,” and… seeing it phrased this way, for the first time, felt wonderful.

“I forgot what it’s called, but it’s this special typo machine.”

I found the videos of kids reacting to typewriters and an Apple II a hilarious and refreshing way to cut through all the nostalgia — plus, I actually learned some things from these!

A keyboard mystery

Can you figure out why does this keyboard look unusual? (And if so, can you tell me how you arrived at the answer? I’m genuinely curious.)

A secret document I’m sharing with you

Here’s the bibliography for my book, including links to things you can read online for free!

Come hang out with me

If you’re in Berlin in November, come see my talk at a conference called Beyond Tellerrand! It’s titled “An abridged history of having fun with the keyboard,” and it will be recorded. Can’t wait for you to see it.

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