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The comma key

Lead Summary
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

OK. Maybe it is my age, but I have my eyes checked routinely. What is with the comma key on my keyboard and the representation of the comma on my computer screen?

Brand of machine makes no difference. I have four Amazon Fire tablets, one MacBook Air, three Dells (a workstation and two laptops), a Microsoft Surface and an iPhone – and they all have the same problem.

That problem is this: Distinguishing semi-colons, commas and periods from each other on each machine keyboard and screen has become nearly impossible, especially in dim light. In some cases, the apostrophe jumps into the mix as well.

Does it cost so much to add a little dollop here and there to make the keys and fonts distinguishable?

I particularly do not understand the problem on screens. I paid for all those pixels, whether they are turned on or off. And if the computer makers think they are looking out for my costs in printing, may I remind them the more ink I use, the more they make?

If they continue down the same path, the asterisk is going to become an elevated period and the caret atop the No. 6 will be a mere figment of its former self.

Back in the days of typing class, 52 years ago, our machines were robust manual machines. Substantially made by IBM, Smith-Corona, Remington or Underwood, those machines could be used as a wheel chock for a self-propelled combine in a pinch – and live to type another day.

The Highland County Press has a nice collection of these old machines in their lobby. The next time I am there, I am going to take a look at the comma, period, semi-colon and asterisks on these machines. I’ll bet they can be distinguished at 20 paces.

We talk about how divided the opinions are in the country these days. We talk about how communications have broken down. I think I have found the source – our keyboards and screens.

Admit it. Haven’t you seen people write sentences like this? “I. don’t. know. what. you. are. talking. about.”

When I was a kid, the only person who was allowed to use unconventional punctuation was the poet and playwright e e cummings. Cummings had credentials. He was a guest professor at his alma mater, Harvard University. He could do whatever he wanted.

I’ll not even get into the pidgin English people use in text messages today. At least when they are doing that, they don’t worry about commas, periods and so forth. Heck, they forget half the letters in every word they type.

This comma conundrum just can’t be my age and eyesight.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at

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