Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Running the Gamut of Emotions

Those of you who are under thirty won't remember it, but in the pre-internet days, when having conversations, we had to express emotion by means of hand-drawn "emoticons such as the above. At appropriate times, one would hold up the piece of paper and point to the face that best represented one's emotional state. A few years later, a new approach came into vogue, whereby conversations would take place near mainframe computer terminals, and, when emotional disambiguation seemed necessary, people would hand over to the technicians previously-composed stacks of IBM punchcards, which when fed into the card reader in the proper sequence would eventually produce a crude image of the chosen cartoon face rendered in numbers, letters, and asterisks on large sheets of tractor-feed paper. This was a slow and cumbersome process, so most folks just kept to themselves. One reason that Star Trek's "Mr. Spock" was such a popular role model among college students in those days was that emulating his cold, emotionless speech patterns eliminated the need for these prehistoric "emoticons".

No comments: