(This is very much an example of one of the little manic episodes that make me a good generalist/appear high functioning)
The left touchpad button on my laptop (Thinkpad T60p, hostname Monolith) has been “limp” for a while. It bothers other people who use my machine, because (objectively) it really does feel very wrong, but it had broken gradually and I had acclimated enough that it didn’t bother me. Last night I started paying attention to the problem, and it became maddening, so I decided to see if I could fix it. I looked at the problem last time I had the machine apart, so I knew there was a torn plastic tactile dome to blame. It is (as best as I can make out) impossible to order just the appropriate domes, and a whole new touchpad is 1. defeatist, 2. about $12 from shady ebay sellers, and 3. requires waiting for it to be shipped. I decided a better (ie. creative, free, immediate, and credit-card-fraud free) solution would be to go rummage in the parts bins, find a sufficiently similar tactile dome in something dead, and install it. The closest match I could find was the keyboard domes from the corpse of my old VPR Matrix 180B5 (The worst made laptop I have ever encountered. Every bit as fragile as one would expect something made by a Best Buy house brand to be, even though it was basically a re-badged Samsung P10. Polystyrene is not chassis material.) I now have a partial match (it’s a little too weak, and not “snappy” enough) installed, which is good enough to keep it from being bothersome.
Thinking about tactile domes reminded me of a fabulous article I read (I thought) about them several years ago. It turns out it was a much more general article about handheld devices, but it really was fabulous. The article is “Handhelds of Tomorrow” from the April 2002 issue of Technology Review. Ideo has a PDF available outside a paywall. The part about the tactile bubbles was one little subsection about Peter Skillman, who was “the hardware guy” at palm/handspring (weird corporate history).
The search for the article reminded me of a previous kick on the work of one of the other important palm/handspring people, Jeff Hawkins, who in addition to being a founder of both companies, is doing amazing work in neuroscience as it relates to computing, and has written a book On Intelligence and given a awesome TED talk on the topic.
Hurrah for (hypo)manic episodes?
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