Rubbed out

The case of the disappearing qwerty

By Charles P. Pierce
March 27, 2011

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Dear Amazon: So I broke down this Christmas and bought one of your Kindle thingamabobs. Time, age, and retinas being what they are, it was one of those DX jobbers with the 9-inch screen. Now, I have grown up in the time period in which “planned obsolescence” went from a business school concept to subject matter for Vegas comedians to earnest PBS documentaries to a way of life. We have grown sadly accustomed to creeping shoddiness in our devices, and it seems to be creeping at a much faster rate than it used to creep. Time was, you’d buy a Corvair and get five decent years out of it before the axles fell out on the highway. (Of course, if your Corvair was nudged by a high breeze, then it would happen sooner.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am now on my third Kindle since Christmas. This has become quite the pain in the Corvair. I mean, how often in one lifetime should someone have to download Teddy Roosevelt’s memoirs of his days in Cuba? (Hey, it’s free.) The problem is that the letters on the keyboard keep wearing off, requiring the user to have an instinctive familiarity with our ol’ pal qwerty, something that can be said with confidence only of retired typists and certain superannuated reporter-creatures. Seriously, though, how hard is it to find, you know, paint that stays legible for longer than a month? Maybe you can buy some on eBay.

Charles P. Pierce can be reached at