Echoes of ICT Museum

My guess is that you have put your gadget aside, or you are using it to read this piece. Whatever gadget you have, it has an interesting beginning. A while ago, a tech-savvy friend interestingly narrated to me about the evolution of communication technology. I disregarded my friend’s fairytale and I set out to look for an ICT museum and witness the evolution myself.

The friend referred me to Multimedia University’s ICT Museum, located inside the institution’s premises along Magadi Road, about 26 kilometres from Nairobi CBD. From its website, I got all the details and booked my visit.

From ‘Posta’ bus stop in Rongai, I walked into the school compound and straight to the museum. Along the pavements, I saw warthogs grazing in flat lawns under acacia trees, and sooner than later I was in the museum. I was curious to know how some communication gadgets came into existence and what might be next from the latest technology. I also wanted to see if I could trace and predict computer keyboard’s ‘QWERTY’ format, which comes from the order of the first six keys on the top left letter row of the keyboard.

At the museum, my first stop was at the Abacus. It was a board with wooden beads with a thin wire connecting them. The caption read ‘the foundation of computing’. I momentarily gazed at the wooden curio, wondering what its relationship with iPhone X could be. I moved on, just to save myself the trouble of over-thinking.

As I scanned my eyes around, I was attracted to a long horn that looked like a curved pipe. The horn was hollow and one end was wider than the other. The caption read that it was used in 600 BCE (about 600 years before the current era). The museum guide told me that it was among the earliest forms of communication used by man. Before I could get over with the horn, I saw an inscription reading ‘Philately’.

Philately is the study of stamps. From a note, I read that letter stamping has been in existence for as far as the Bible can trace. The biblical book of Esther was inscribed in a note. The note is the earliest recorded instance of a letter stamp. In the times of Apostle Paul, letter writing was a common means of communication.

My interest then shifted to the origin of electrified communication. I was taken back to 1857 when the telegraph was invented. From the description, I read that the telegraph was the earliest invention and probably the origin of electronic communication. I was amazed by how telegraph machine worked. Basically, someone had to encode a textual message and send it to the recipient, who needed to have a decoding formula. Because of the technicalities involved, people had to hire operators. To me, the whole telegraph idea seemed absurd. I moved on.

Have you ever wondered why all computers go with ‘QWERTY’ format on the keyboards, or even where the format came from? Apparently, typewriters were the first machines to use that specific keyboard format. It is probably time gadget manufactures tell us why they can’t do away with ‘QWERTY’. Of all the technological changes I saw at the museum, the keyboard has literally refused to evolve.

I left the ‘QWERTY’ puzzle to stare at a box I was told that it was the first iMac and I was so surprised to see how it looked like. It was not an Air or Pro; it was a Macintosh SE! It was all white with a coloured Apple emblem and a huge cubic monitor with a tiny display screen. The mouse was the size of a loaf, and the keyboard was twice the width of the monitor and had the bloody ‘QWERTY’ format. I couldn’t see the Central Processing Unit (CPU).

Today, all the compartments of the Macintosh have been compressed to slim smart Macbook Air, thanks to advancement in technology. From the look of things, everything else has changed, but the keyboard. I may not know what next invention in computing might be, but the keyboard layout may not change any time soon.

I left the museum wishing to know what great scientists such as Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison would think of us if they came back to life. They’d probably change the keyboard format!

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