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Tagged with “history” (269)

  1. Interrobang - 99% Invisible

    In the beginning was the word, and the word was … well, actually, there was just one word … one long, endless word. For thousands of years, in some written languages, there was no space between words. People were expected figure out sentences and clauses while reading aloud.

    Vergilius Augusteus, Georgica, written with continuous wrapping scriptScriptio continua was the dominant form of writing for the Greeks and the Romans. Sometimes, this never-ending string of letters would execute what was called an ox-turn, first reading left to right, then switching to read back from right to left.

    In the 3rd century BCE, a librarian in Alexandria named Aristophanes introduced the idea of putting in dots to indicate pauses, like stage directions for people performing texts out loud. Dots of ink at the bottom, middle, or top of a given line served as subordinate, intermediate and full points, corresponding to pauses of increasing length.

    Aristophanes’ system became the basis for Western punctuation. A partial thought — followed by the shortest pause — was called a comma. A fuller thought was called a kolon.  And a complete thought — followed by the longest pause — was called a periodos.  These rhetorical units eventually lent their names to the comma, colon and period we know today.

    More punctuation followed. Medieval scribes gave us the earliest forms of the exclamation mark. And in the 8th century, Alcuin of York, an English scholar in the court of Charlemagne, quietly introduced a symbol that would evolve into the modern question mark. Ever since, we’ve ended our sentences with one of these three ancient marks, called end marks.

    Questioning Exclamations

    There have, however, been attempts to expand this typographical toolkit, and include other end marks. One such example has made it into dictionaries: the interrobang (‽).

    Producer Joe Rosenberg’s Americana Monotype interrobang, image by Vivian LeIt was created by an ad man named Martin Speckter just over a half-century ago. In the 1950s and 60s, he repped some of the biggest names in publishing, such as Barron’s, Dow Jones, and the Wall Street Journal. Speckter was also a typography nerd, constantly reading books on punctuation and the English language. He and his Penny wife, Penny, collected hundreds of printing presses of all kinds and sizes.

    In the spring of 1962, Speckter was thinking about advertising when he realized something: many ads asked questions, but not just any questions — excited and exclamatory questions — a trend not unique to his time. Got milk?! Where’s the beef?! Can you hear me now?! So he asked himself: could there be a mark that made it clear (visually on a page) that something is both a question and an exclamation?!

    Speckter was also the editor of the typography magazine TYPEtalks, so  in March of 1962, in an article for the magazine titled “Making a New Point, Or How About That…”, Speckter proposed the first new mark of English language punctuation in 300 years: the interrobang.

    Proposed interrobangs from Type Talks, March-April 1962, as drawn by Jack LiptonThe interrobang was a new kind of end mark. It denoted a question that expressed surprise or incredulity. This also made it useful for rhetorical questions, most of which are also incredulous. In his article, Speckter was already envisioning exclamatory-slash-rhetorical advertising slogans that could take advantage of the new mark, such as “What?! A Refrigerator That Makes Its Own Ice Cubes?!”

    Alternative interrobangs submitted to Type Talks, May-June 1962 via Shady CharactersSpeckter laid out a few different potential ideas for what the interrobang should look like, but quickly zeroed in on a favorite.  His design collapsed the question mark and the exclamation point into a single glyph. The two marks, instead of being placed back to back, were now conjoined, sharing the same dot at the bottom.

    One version of the interrobang design, combining a question mark and an exclamation pointAt Speckter’s request, readers of the article also wrote in with proposals for alternate names, including “emphaquest,” “interropoint” and “exclarogative.” But he stuck with the original name — “interro” for interrogate and “bang” for the proofreader’s word for the exclamation point. (When giving dictation, people didn’t use the phrase “exclamation point.” They would just say “bang.”)

    Shady Characters by Keith HoustonBut, as punctuation expert Keith Houston explains, “it’s not easy to invent a mark of punctuation that actually sticks.” Houston loves the interrobang, but notes that history is littered with failed attempts to create new end marks. “Around the 16th century,” for instance, “the percontation mark, this rhetorical question mark, lasted about fifty years before it disappeared. There was one invented by a kind of renaissance man called John Wilkins who proposed an irony mark and it went nowhere.”

    And then there’s the interrobang, which, seemingly from the day it was born, faced a string of bad luck. For example, an article praising the interrobang appeared in the New York Herald Tribune in 1962. In the Tribune article, the writer called the interrobang true genius. Unfortunately, his article was published on the first of April and it may have been that the readers took it as an April Fool’s joke.

    Still, this punctuation mark persevered. In 1966, a company called the American Type Founders — a legendary design firm that created some of the most widely used typefaces of the 20th century — unveiled a new typeface called Americana that included an interrobang, but the foundry was in decline, and Americana was the last type typeface they ever cut.

    Then, in 1968, the iconic typewriter company Remington announced that their latest model typewriter would feature an optional intrerrobang key. Still, it was optional — an extra — costing extra money.  It failed to catch on.

    A 1969 brochure from Smith-Corona showing their interchangeable interrobang keyToday, the interrobang is just barely hanging in there. It has its own character in Unicode, the common directory of symbols which all computer fonts must reference. But Keith Houston points out that it still hasn’t cleared the biggest typographical obstacle of all: “I think that in order to really consider it to be a real mark of punctuation, people have to use it without thinking about it.” In other words: a truly remarkable mark of punctuation must be unremarkable.

    Banality Inaction

    Alas, banality is not one of the interrobang’s strong suits. After Remington’s brief attempt to give it a key, it never made it onto any standard keyboards. And, now, if it is included in a font, it’s accessible only within a nested series of menus and selections. So when people do use it, they’re deliberately going out of their way to do so. They’re using it to make a sort of statement, not because it’s needed.  For it to truly succeed, ordinary people need to employ the interrobang for no other reason beyond the fact that the sentence at hand calls for its use.

    Portrait of Judge Frank EasterbrookHouston says these are rare, but has found at least one genuinely banal interrobang, used by a man named Frank Easterbrook. Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Easterbrook used to be Deputy Solicitor General, arguing the interests of the United States in the Supreme Court. He is also a typophile, and has no patience for briefs written in Times New Roman, a newspaper typeface (he wants lawyers to use book typefaces).

    In May of 2011 Easterbrook was writing a ruling for a case, the case of Sears vs. Crowley, when he realized he’d written himself into a corner. “I reached a point where I had written a rhetorical question where I was tempted to use, you know, “question mark, exclamation point, question mark, exclamation point,” he recalls. Then he remembered the interrobang. His clerks thought it was a typo, but he assured them it was quite intentional. It was also very, very banal — he wasn’t showing off and he didn’t publicize his usage.

    Shortly after Easterbrook issued his opinion, his quiet use of an obscure form of punctuation was spotted by a legal blog and added to the interrobang’s Wikipedia page. When Easterbrook learned this, he laughed. He said he never intended to draw attention to the interrobang. He just thought it was the right mark to use.

    https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/interrobang/

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  2. Rosalind Franklin

    Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the pioneering scientist Rosalind Franklin (1920 - 1958). During her distinguished career, Franklin carried out ground-breaking research into coal and viruses but she is perhaps best remembered for her investigations in the field of DNA. In 1952 her research generated a famous image that became known as Photograph 51. When the Cambridge scientists Francis Crick and James Watson saw this image, it enabled them the following year to work out that DNA has a double-helix structure, one of the most important discoveries of modern science. Watson, Crick and Franklin’s colleague Maurice Wilkins received a Nobel Prize in 1962 for this achievement but Franklin did not and today many people believe that Franklin has not received enough recognition for her work.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09rzm9y

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  3. Submarine for a Stuart King

    The magical world of Conelis Drebbel, inventor of the first submarine in 1621.

    How did the crew of this remarkable vessel manage to breathe underwater, completely cut off from the surface, 150 years before oxygen was officially discovered?

    King James I of England and thousands of his subjects lined the banks of the River Thames in London to watch the first demonstration. The strangest boat they had ever seen sank beneath the waves and stayed there for three hours.

    Did Drebbel know how to make oxygen? Historian Andrew Szydlow reveals that Drebbel did have secret knowledge of how to keep the air fresh.

    In his day, Drebbel was a pioneer of exploring uninhabitable places. Today’s equivalent is to make oxygen on the Moon and as scientists grapple with this ultimate challenge, Monica Grady explains their work is being used under the waves where Drebbel began.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06tvc2f

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  4. The History of the Web, and WordPress’s 15th Birthday — Draft Podcast • Post Status

    In this episode, Brian is joined by Jay Hoffmann — the owner and curator of The History of the Web, a timeline and history of the web — and they discuss the project, as well as WordPress’s 15 year arc of history.

    Welcome to the Post Status Draft podcast, which you can find on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and via RSS for your favorite podcatcher. Post Status Draft is hosted by Brian Krogsgard and co-host Brian Richards.

    In this episode, Brian is joined by guest-host Jay Hoffmann. Jay is the Lead Developer at Reaktiv Studios and the creator and curator of The History of the Web. It is a good time to discuss the history of the web with Jay, as WordPress is ready to celebrate its 15th birthday.

    Be sure to subscribe to Jay’s newsletter on the History of the Web website to receive new articles on such a fascinating project.

    Brian and Jay discuss his work at Reaktiv, his prior work at Sesame Street Workshop and Random House, and the project he’s worked on for two years now documenting the web’s timeline and history. It was a fun discussion on all fronts.

    https://poststatus.com/the-history-of-the-web-and-wordpresss-15th-birthday-draft-podcast/

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  5. Claude Shannon, Father of Information Theory | Internet History Podcast

    Claude Shannon was a mathematician, electrical engineer, and cryptographer known as “the father of information theory.” In the pantheon of cool people who made the modern information era possible, he’s right up there. Today, we’re going to talk about Shannon’s life with Jimmy Sony and Rob Goodman, authors of a great biography of the man called A Mind At Play, How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. Especially you software engineers out there, if you don’t know who Claude Shannon was, get educated. You owe your livelihood to this man.

    http://www.internethistorypodcast.com/2018/05/claude-shannon-father-of-information-theory/

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  6. UCDScholarcast - Scholarcast 61: Style and context -Traditional Irish Harping

    Abstract

    This Scholarcast is an extract from Helen Lawlor’s book, Irish Harping: 1900-2010 (Four Courts Press, 2012). This study provides a musical ethnography and a history of the Irish harp. It gives a socio-cultural and musical analysis of the music and song associated with all Irish harp styles, including traditional style, song to harp accompaniment, art-music style and the early Irish harp revival. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Irish harp had a limited presence in Ireland, but over the course of that century the harp experienced a significant revival with the subsequent emergence of numerous styles. Issues of transmission, gender studies and identity are also examined in this book. The Irish harp is now firmly located in the musical life of Ireland, in art music, traditional music and early music. Its present state is conditioned by its history in the 20th century. This book presents and analyses both of these perspectives in relation to the Irish harping tradition.

    Helen Lawlor

    Dr Helen Lawlor is a musician and academic, specialising in Irish harping. She lectures ethnomusicology, music education and Irish music at Dundalk Institute of Technology. Helen holds a PhD from UCD, an MA in Musicology (UCD) and a Bachelor in Music Education (TCD). She is contributor to and co-editor with Sandra Joyce of Harp Studies, Perspectives on the Irish Harp (Four Courts Press, 2016). In 2012 Helen published her research on the harp tradition in a monograph entitled Irish Harping 1900-2010 (Four Courts Press).  She has also contributed articles to the Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland, The Companion to Irish Traditional Music, Ancestral Imprints and Sonus. She has given guest lectures at Harvard University, the New England Conservatory, the American Irish Historical Society, the Royal Scottish Conservatoire.

    http://www.ucd.ie/scholarcast/scholarcast61.html

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  7. Allusionist 42+43. Survival: The Key rerun — The Allusionist

    To accompany the current Allusionist miniseries Survival, about minority languages facing suppression and extinction, we’re revisiting this double bill of The Key episodes about why languages die and how they can be resuscitated. The Rosetta Stone and its modern equivalent the Rosetta Disk preserve writing systems to be read by future generations. But how do those generations decipher text that wasn’t written with the expectation of requiring decipherment? Features mild scenes of linguistic apocalypse.

    https://www.theallusionist.org/survival-key

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  8. Kottke.org’s Jason Kottke, @jkottke | Internet History Podcast

    Jason Kottke, of kottke.org fame, was one of the early bloggers, one of the first bloggers to go pro, and one of the few solo bloggers still going. If you know Kottke.org, then you love it. How could you not? If you’ve never heard of it, you can thank me later. This episode examines what it means to be a publisher on the web for 20 years as well as the discipline required to find cool stuff on the web every single day (almost).

    http://www.internethistorypodcast.com/2018/04/kottke-orgs-jason-kottke-jkottke/

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  9. The Web of Future Past with John Allsopp

    In this episode of devMode.fm, we talk to web veteran & founder of the Web Directions conference, John Allsopp. We talk about the origins of the web, including many technologies you may never have heard of. John drops some fantastic tidbits from the perspective that only someone who has seen it all can offer.

    We also meander through a philosophical discussion of the current and future state of the web development industry. Are certain jobs in the web development world in danger of becoming obsolete? Join us for a fun and far-ranging discussion!

    https://devmode.fm/episodes/the-web-of-future-past-with-john-allsopp

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  10. Episode 126: How Ann Boleyn gave us our right to privacy • DecodeDC

    What do Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII have to do with Roe v Wade and a right to privacy?

    http://www.decodedc.com/126/

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