Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Balfour Declaration

Not the one from the Foreign Minister that committed World War I era Britain to establishing a Jewish state in Palestine, but the one that ought to be better known, 'History doesn't repeat itself.  Historians repeat each other.'

As we've been recently documenting, so do economists, some of them with Nobel prizes (Paul Krugman, Ken Arrow). Then, often through journalism, those repeated stories, even when demonstrated to be factually inaccurate, get into the public consciousness and are exceptionally hard to dislodge--locked-in, ha ha. H.L Mencken exposed the process in his famous Bathtub Hoax back in 1917, when he admitted that he'd made up a history of the bathtub;
 Pretty soon I began to encounter my preposterous "facts" in the writings of other men. They began to be used by chiropractors and other such quacks as evidence of the stupidity of medical men. They began to be cited by medical men as proof of the progress of public hygiene. They got into learned journals. They were alluded to on the floor of congress. They crossed the ocean, and were discussed solemnly in England and on the continent. Finally, I began to find them in standard works of reference. Today, I believe, they are accepted as gospel everywhere on earth. To question them becomes as hazardous as to question the Norman invasion.
The most recent example at hand from the Telegraph of London by Harry Wallop just last month;
Qwerty has survived for the simple reason that it got there first and provided a machine for a world that craved standardisation. This was the era when a nut produced in Manchester would not fit a bolt manufactured in London.
As Professor Doron Swade, a computer historian, says: “The big lesson of Qwerty was the fact that it was standard; it wasn’t the most efficient or the most ergonomically sound.” 
Just to show we're not picking on the Telegraph, this is from the BBC in 2010;

"Imagine you're on the maiden flight of that new ultra-modern aircraft, the Dreamliner. And you notice it's being towed to the runway by donkeys. Better still, camels," explains comedian Stephen Fry, the presenter of a new series on BBC Radio 4 that kicks off with a look at the origins of Qwerty.
"In exactly the same way, the Qwerty keyboard is an ancient system attached to our most modern devices. And like the metaphorical camel, it was designed by way of a series of compromises."
....the Qwerty keyboard and its inventor could be accused of "conspiracy to pervert the course of language and to limit the speed of creativity and language input, endangering billions with repetitive strain injury".Start QuoteQwerty can be seen, he argues, as "a deliberate spanner in the works of language, metaphorically and technologically".
Qwerty is "not ergonomic", agrees Professor Koichi Yasuoka of Kyoto University, a world expert on the development of the keyboard. 
And that man has a doctorate!  As did the instigator of this hoax--though he went to his grave without admitting that was what it was--Professor August Dvorak.

In an Associated Press article carried by the New York Times, on October 7, 1943, it is reported that an unnamed Navy typist was typing at 180 words per minute, well above the then claimed world speed record of 149 WPM, using;
...one of the Navy’s new typewriters, its keyboard designed by Lieut. Comdr. August Dvorak.  Formerly of the University of Washington and now the department’s top time and motion study expert….
The Navy disclosed that….The Navy said, is an increased output of about 35 per cent.
Which sounds suspiciously like the Navy was Dvorak himself, promoting his patented machine to a gullible reporter. And nearly 70 years later the story is still being repeated.  And not just by English comedians.

No comments:

Post a Comment