I live out in the sticks, but I try to keep informed of the latest developments in tech and trends. For this, I rely on a former colleague, L., who is still in touch with what’s hip and hot in the Bay Area and beyond. And I am now informed of something that leads me to believe that [crotchety old man voice] this whole steampunk thing has gone too far.
Everyone has a cell phone, everyone texts and tweets and twerps and what-all. How to set yourself apart from, and above, the madding crowd, be steampunk, and still be connected?
Enter the cellular telegraph. It’s a beautifully made brass and mahogany telegraph key that fastens on to, and plugs into, an i-phone. An app called “dah-dit” converts your tappings into a signal that gets sent to a friend, whose dah-dit-equipped phone makes the noises that correspond to your dots and dashes. They can then reply in Morse code.
Apparently, it’s gotten to be quite a thing among steampunk-y youth, and it’s easy to see why. Like skateboarding, communicating in Morse is a trivial skill that takes copious time to get good at. Like a high school clique, it excludes those that haven’t learned the code (not to mention parents). Like a jeweled cell phone skin, the telegraph key attachment is expensive and casually flauntable. And hey, it involves a cell phone. So now, instead of being in the same room and texting each other, L. reports students in the same room telegraphing each other. And apparently, as in days of old, people can recognize each other by their “accents” as they dot and dash.
L. reported a couple of classroom experiences interrupted by loud bursts of Morse Code and embarrassment on the part of an eccentrically dressed student fumbling to mute a cellular telegraph. I suggested that L. should wait a year or so, and expect to see students waving semaphore flags at each other across the quad.