Apostrophe apostate

I’m writing this on an old laptop, a 2004-vintage Dell running Win-XP. It only has 2GB of RAM because I upgraded it in 2008. The screen is slow to come up to full brightness and the CPU is so old, I can’t even find benchmarks for it. Based on my closest proximal values, though, it has about 1% of the raw processing power of the current generation of laptop CPUs.

None of this is terrible relevant, though. While I have upgraded my desktop computer a couple of times since I got this old thing, it has always been sitting and waiting, serving the occasional emergency duty role. In the last six months, though, it’s been serving a more important function. I use it for writing. It’s perfect for this, and that’s why I’m going to be mourning it in the near future.

It’s set up atop an upside-down stack of plastic trays, the kind which are labelled IN and OUT in old movies featuring office drones hard at work. The trays are upside-down because, in a happy accident, the little plastic feet make for a perfect frame in which to set this laptop. The stack of five trays brings the keyboard to near-perfect height to type while standing. An old laptop at standing height, cabled into a router box to connect to my desktop box = standing desk nirvana.

OK, OK, “nirvana” is a bit strong, but it’s certainly nice to be able to set aside all other work and stand at this laptop to write. The physical separation encourages mental separation, which aids focus and creativity. It’s like having Neil Gaiman’s writing gazebo over at the side of my work-cluttered desk.

How sad that the apostrophe key is dying!

This laptop is woefully underpowered for many things. Even for relatively simple general word processing, the version of MS-Word I use on my desktop (Word 2007) puts a strain on this machine’s capabilities. Fortunately, I use yWriter for almost all the writing I do on this laptop. It’s got a small resource requirement, so it sings right along. Composing and editing is fine, and working in the single text-entry pane suits the minimalist, isolationist approach I like for this kind of writing. It’s not quite Q10 or WriteRoom, but it’s close.

The keyboard is nice, almost full-sized with a nice vertical travel to the keys and a solid pushback tactile response. I’ve set up yWriter to use typewriter sounds, so that I clickety-clack, clickety-clack as I type, with a tik-shhhhhhhhzzzzzKKKK! sound of a platen lever/carriage return when I press ENTER. Incidentally, for those of you too young to remember, typewriters used paper, which was CARRIED on a sliding rack called a CARRIAGE. That’s why the embed code for a line return is CR.

But I digress.

The apostrophe key is beginning to fail. About one time in five, it will fail to register a keystroke. My it’s becomes an its, and my can’t becomes a cant. My don’t *would* become a dont, but since I also have AutoHotKey running, it automatically corrects the 45,000 most commonly misspelled words, missing punctuations and incorrect capitalization. A lot of my mistakes never see the final file, because my little digital servants are all so well-trained.

What am I to do? I can’t fix this key, can’t replace the keyboard, can’t go without an apostrophe. Now that I’ve had the experience of a standing desk, working in glorious isolation to write my fiction and many of my blog posts, I don’t want to quit.

Rage, rage against the dying of the ‘…


Tony Noland is a writer, blogger and poet in Philadelphia, on the East Coast of the United States. He takes his writing seriously, but has somehow gotten a reputation as a funny guy. His work ranges from literary fiction to science fiction, fantasy and horror. Tony is active on Twitter as @TonyNoland, and you can find his fiction at his writing blog Landless.

6 Responses to “Apostrophe apostate”

  1. Dane Zeller says:

    The solution is obvious, Tony. You will have to change your writing style. It will be more formal, but your readers will adapt. Don’t worry, or, in your new world, do not worry.

  2. ganymeder says:

    You can get laptops pretty cheap now, but I’m sorry you’ll miss this one.

    • Tony Noland says:

      I have a cheap netbook (circa 2010) that I use for travel; I might have to allocate it for this writing set-up and upgrade my travel machine.

  3. Apostrophes are 039 in ASCII. Hold down your ALT key and press 039. Instant apostrophe! (I use this stuff all the time when I type en fran├žais! :) )

    • Tony Noland says:

      Well, that’s brilliant! It never occurred to me to go for the ASCII code inserts. When and if the key fails completely, I’ll have to rely on that.