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Perspective: How the delete key threatens civilization everywhere

Fiona Murray

One of my few achievements in high school was the ability to type. I even entered competitions. During my senior year I completed a five-hundred-word manuscript without a single keyboard error. Yet this did not earn me a gold ribbon. It did not earn me even a silver ribbon. It got me a dark green ribbon, or third place.

When I protested, the judge took me aside and showed me three floating capitals in my work. It would take almost a microscope to see these slightly raised capital letters. But they were enough to get me no better than a dark green ribbon.

This story seems ancient today. We don't type now. We process. If you make an error, just hit the delete key. Floating capitals are impossible. But what have we lost? Now we can easily “do over" our mistakes. Back then, in the days of green ribbons, we had to live with them.

The law of entropy tells us we can't travel backwards in time and just erase all our errors. I've always thought the law of entropy existed in order to make us own up to our foibles and learn from them. But the author of the law of entropy wasn't counting on the delete key. No wonder we're all so immature these days. Maybe we're becoming more uncivilized, too.

This is Tom McBride, and that's my Perspective.

Tom McBride is co-author of the annual Beloit College Mindset List. He is a specialist in Shakespeare. For 42 years he taught at Beloit, where he won an award for excellence in teaching. He also coordinated the Mackey Distinguished Writers' Program and the First Year Initiatives Program.