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#251 :: Calculator keys

October 16, 2004

Conformity. Uniformity. Unity. The practice of manufacture with interchangeable parts. The safety of numbers, the inescapable calculus of logic and reason. Math. Before Honoré Le Blanc, we hand-tooled our machines, crafted unique modifiers of the human condition – guns, printing presses, carriages. Parts were precious, the loss of a single wheel could doom two stagemen, four horses and four passengers to die in the desert at the hands of brigands, the elements, each other. Now our machine tools are infinitely multipliable, and their mechanical progeny as numerous and interchangeable as grains of sand. A calculator costs $4.88 at Wal-Mart. It dies, there’s not much point to trying to have it repaired, interchangeable parts or not. Time is money. Buy another. Take a pocket knife and misuse the time that you would have spent going to and from and dealing with the repair shop, by disemboweling it, seeing what makes it work. Lose the LCD screen and the chip and the front and back bezel in the trash, in various moves from one city to another. Stumble across a little Fuji can full of keys. Spill them onto a black cloth. Begin redesigning a calculator that eschews logic, runs on its own version of the truth, generates its own multipliers and factorials via unorthodox placement of the keys.

Or maybe they’re just worthless junk. But the shooka-shooka of the shaken film can, the micro-Louise Nevelson or Joseph Cornell potential of the little chips of imprinted thermoplastic compel you to keep them.

Back into the junk drawer for another five years.

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