Sunday Book-Thought 122

Etaoin Shrdlu affected the linotype operator somewhat, and the newspaper reader slightly, and yet it is an emblem. Its very obsolescence helps lend it status. It recalls, for one thing, a feature of those years, when human behavior, e.g. movements of one’s left little finger, could be inflected by imperatives one needn’t know about. (How many operators knew why ETAOIN had the leftmost keyboard column?) Technology tended to engulf people gradually, coercing behavior they were not aware of. And it altered their world, so much so that an office typist of 1910 could not have imagined how her 1880 counterpart used to spend the day.
Hugh KennerThe Mechanic Muse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 9.

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