Nathan Barley, meet Autocad.

Published on 03-07-2016

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Nathan Barley, meet Autocad.

The tale of a $60 space bar.

Attracted by shiny objects, I registered an account on a shopping site called Massdrop. As it is a shopping site, and I am not a fraudster, I used my real name. However, Massdrop is designed to be a social experience: it is a consumerist collective, or cult.

On Amazon, if you like something you can save it to a list without telling the entire world. Massdrop is not designed with that usage in mind. It is designed so that peers encourage one another to buy all sorts of crap, and it does this by sharing the details of your purchases with everybody else on the site. Thus, as on any other social network, it is very easy to accidentally reveal too much of your personal information.

Luckily for me, I have a brain and so there no chance I would accidentally inform the world that I spent $60 on a space bar.

Yes, that’s $60, for a single keyboard key. Most people would never spend $60 on a keyboard. Some people only have $60 to feed themselves this week; this month.

A quote from the seller:

“After all, due to its length, the space bar is the most difficult key to handcraft, requiring a high-quality molding material to ensure it retains its shape. It took dozens of prototypes, but Space Bar: The First Frontier has finally arrived.”

Meinong’s Keyboard

As a programmer I was naturally drawn to a user poll called “What is the best keyboard for coding?” where I learned that the best keyboard, by a wide margin was the so-called Ultimate Hacking Keyboard.

Non-existent keyboard wins poll

Excited, I rushed to the manufacturer’s website. But there I received a shock: the keyboard does not in fact exist. It has not been manufactured. You may pre-order it for $220 as long as your are not discouraged by the supply problems facing the startup who are building the keyboard.

Certainly, there is a lot of hype, and that is because the keyboard has a killer feature: application specific keymaps. When a certain program on your computer has focus on the screen, a helper app will reprogram your keyboard. In this manner, you can have special keymaps for certain games, or even change from Qwerty to Dvorak or Colemak when editing documents.

It made me wonder though: couldn’t all of that be done in software, rather than reprogramming the keyboard? Non-English speakers use this functionality regularly, as all mainstream Operating Systems allow a user to change between say, Japanese and English by pressing a key combo. If this automatic helper reprogrammed the OS keymap, then the user could use their old keyboard and wouldn’t have to buy a very expensive new one. (I say expensive as it is worth nearly 4 spacebars!)

Well, building a program that actually solves a useful problem would go against manufacturing interests, and we can’t have that.

Back to the poll, why would anyone endorse a product that does not, and may never, exist?

Because sending an extortionate amount of cash to a startup who are suffering from supply problems in the hope that they will one day manufacture and deliver to you a non-defective keyboard that you do not need… will make America Great Again.

Every Day Mandatory Sentencing

Every Day Carry dot com encourages its (male) users to empty their pockets, and photograph the contents. The various products are then highlighted, encouraging the next dumb shmuck who visits the site to buy the same crap.

In my home country, it is illegal to walk outside carrying a knife with blade of more than 3 inches. I have the feeling that most of this site’s users are Americans.

Please stay away from me

I learn that two of those knives are high-end “Tactical” knives. I suppose if you need to stab someone EVERY DAY then you should probably get a good knife. I think cheap butchers knives must have a habit of warping after the first 28 stabs, since I am encouraged to instead purchase carbon-fibre and titanium alloy knives.

How to join in!

I feel like a 1980s miner sacked from the coal pit one day, who then learns that they can take up a new living walking pampered dogs round rich London boroughs.

If 15 years ago, someone at my school had told me that I could make shitloads of money selling individual spacebars, I probably would not have toiled to gain my sensible industrial skills.

My new life plan is to give up software development. Instead I will create Autocad drawings of keyboards with extra knives on, and offer the renders for download. I don’t even need to manufacture them, since the item itself is totally fucking useless. As long as my users can feel they personally identify with the idea of the product, that is enough.

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