A story in the 22 July 2001 issue really captured my interest — it amazes me how people will adapt to their technology, rather than make their technology adapt to them.
It’s certainly nothing new: the keyboard on the computer you’re sitting at right now probably has a “Qwerty” layout for the keys. That key arrangement is anti-ergonomic — it was specifically designed to slow down typing because of the mechanical limitations of typewriters in the 1870s.
Problem with the keys jamming? Anti-engineer the keyboard to slow people down, don’t fix the technology to keep it from jamming! (Which, of course, they did do long ago — but we’re still stuck with Qwerty even though a far superior alternative has been available for decades!)
Similarly, when people have a problem communicating with “Short Message Service” on their cell phones, the solution is to alter (even destroy) the language, rather than make SMS better:
Sv Me Fm Hl!
2 BZ 4 church? No problem: thanks to cell phone “Short Message Service”, church can come to you. To help, a religious group has “translated” the Lord’s Prayer into SMS shorthand. “Our Father, who art in heaven” is delivered as “dad@hvn” while “hallowed be thy name” becomes “urspshl.” The entire prayer fits the SMS limit of 160 characters — with 3 to spare. The group’s spokesman says the prayer is “an experimental form of virtual worship.” (London Times) …Which is pretty much what all prayer is.
The full translation is fairly interesting:
|Our Father who art in heaven,||dad@hvn,||Dad at heaven,|
|hallowed be thy name.||urspshl.||you’re special.|
|Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,||we want wot u want||We want what you want|
|on earth, as it is in heaven.||&urth2b like hvn.||and Earth to be like heaven.|
|Give us this day our daily bread,||giv us food||Give us food|
|and forgive us our trespasses,||&4giv r sins||and forgive our sins|
|as we forgive those who trespass against us.||lyk we 4giv uvaz.||like we forgive others.|
|And lead us not into temptation,||don’t test us!||Don’t test us!|
|but deliver us from evil.||save us!||Save us!|
|For thine is the kingdom,||bcos we kno ur boss||because we know you’re boss,|
|and the power,||ur tuf||you’re tough,|
|and the glory, for ever and ever.||&ur cool 4 eva!||and you’re cool forever!|
(The SMS translation was written by Matthew Campbell, a history student at York University. Its translation back to English was written by me.)
Interestingly, several readers thought that there would be a lot of angry letters about this story. But it took quite a while to get one, and they’ve been rare. Perhaps people are growing up and understand one can talk about religion without Christians feeling like they need to be threatened — or perhaps they are starting to realize that uninformed arguments over religious issues often makes them look pretty darn stupid.
Anyway, that leaves thoughtful reflection on the story — which is what True is all about. The most interesting so far is from Fred in Illinois:
That is really …er… disturbing. I don’t mean the alteration of the prayer — if it’s not in Greek, it’s already been altered, right? [Good point! -rc] Instead, what I object to is the rapid bastardization of the language. I am only fair when it comes to spelling. My spell checker is my best friend and I use it constantly! When I see news items like this, it makes me feel as if I’m wasting my time. Why bother being literate? What do I tell my (hypothetical) children when they ask me why they have to learn spelling in school? The adult world obviously doesn’t care about it, why should they?
Now that I’ve finished ranting about that part, I’ll have to say that the intersection of technology and religion doesn’t particularly bother me. I think it’s only natural that the users belief and spirituality should be a part of new technology. I certainly can’t help but notice that Christian preachers have adapted well to the medium of television. (Too well, some might say!)
Heh! Just so. But I have no concern about the intersection of technology and religion. After all, churches have used lights and heaters for years. Rather, my concern is bending humans to the weaknesses of technology. As in “Let’s cripple people so they can accommodate 19th-century typewriters rather than fix the keyboard!” As in “Let’s completely screw up the most expressive language ever created because cell phones with processors more powerful than what filled an entire room in 1950 can’t handle more than 160 characters at a time!”
Yaknow? We should bend technology to fit people, not bend people to fit poorly designed technology.
I finally got a few rants about the story. They ran from Bible-thumping preaching to “a long time reader” who “will forestall my cancellation decision until I’ve allowed sufficient time for your explaination [sic]”. (keep waiting, pal) to this one, from Mike in Virginia:
I don’t like the story’s tagline at all. Saying “(an experimental form of virtual worship) is pretty much what all prayer is” is pretty insulting to anyone of any faith that believes in prayer of any form.
Sorry, Mike, but I just don’t accept your claim that you speak for “everyone of faith.” Plenty of “people of faith” have taken the story just for what it is. But I do agree that you chose to be insulted, rather than take the “Christian” approach. That says a lot more about you than it does me, or the story, doesn’t it?
After I wrote the above, I got this letter, from Gidon in Israel:
Your comment might have been an attempt to make fun at religion, and the self-righteous indignations will probably start pouring in. But as a religious person, I found the comment deep and inspiring!
No, it wasn’t meant to “make fun” of religion, it was meant to provoke thought. I am gratified to see that it did just that, even in the Holy Land.)
OK, two more and I’m gonna call it a page:
I have studied the king james version of the holy bible,or at least mused on it for 43 years.As a result of this I have seen the bottomless pit,where satan is to be released from.I understand the “warming trend”.I have witnessed the lake of fire the planet earth is going to be cast into.I have found alien robots in the bible.Evidence as solid as steel proves creation by a greater being.I am not a preacher or a “religious nut.” I just want to know how to make money from it.I only have a 10th grade education and am 60 years old. –Carlton (location not given)