Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Few Last Thoughts About Reading

I'm ready to move on to new topics, but wanted to share one last thing with you before I close off the subject of books and reading for a while. Over at Out of My Hat yesterday, John mentioned our current discussion of reading and offered a few interesting derivations of words which began their life as acronyms. I'd heard some of these before, and while some may be apocryphal, they're all interesting. But it got me to thinking about a humorous piece I ran across some years ago that I knew was buried somewhere in my vast and untidy digital archives. After much diligent search, I found it, and reproduce it below. It's a bit long, but funny enough to be well worth the read. Welcome to the B.O.O.K. (with a tip of the hat to the anonymous original author, and with very minor edits by Bilbo) ...

*****

Introducing the B.O.O.K.

A new aid to rapid--almost magical--learning has made its appearance. Indications are that if it catches on, all the electronic gadgets will be so much junk.

The new device is known as Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge™. The makers generally call it by its initials, B.O.O.K.

Many advantages are claimed over the old-style learning and teaching aids on which most people are brought up nowadays. It has no wires, no electric circuit to break down. No connection is needed to an electricity power point. It is made entirely without mechanical parts to go wrong or need replacement.

Anyone can use B.O.O.K.™, even children, and it fits comfortably into the hands. It can be conveniently used sitting in an armchair by the fire.

How does this revolutionary, unbelievably easy invention work?

Basically the B.O.O.K.™ consists of a large number of paper sheets, which may run to the hundreds where the B.O.O.K.™ covers a lengthy program of information. Each sheet bears a number in sequence, so that the sheets cannot be used in the wrong order.

To make it even easier for the user to keep the sheets in the proper order, they are held firmly in place by a special locking device called a binding.

Each sheet of paper presents the user with an information sequence in the form of symbols, which the reader absorbs optically for automatic registration on the brain. When one sheet has been assimilated, a flick of the finger turns it over and further information is found on the other side. By using both sides of each sheet in this way a great economy is effected, thus reducing both the size and cost of each B.O.O.K.™ No buttons need to be pressed to move from one sheet to another, to open or close the B.O.O.K.™, or to start it working.

A B.O.O.K.™ may be taken up at any time and used by merely opening it. Instantly it is ready for use. Nothing has to be connected up or switched on. The user may turn at will to any sheet, going backwards or forwards as he pleases. A sheet is provided near the beginning as a location finder for any required general information sequence, while more specific location finders can often be found at the end in a sheet called an index.

A small accessory, available at trifling extra cost, is the B.O.O.K. Mark.™ This enables the user to pick up his program where he left off on the previous learning session. The B.O.O.K. Mark™ is versatile and may be used in any B.O.O.K.™ without modification. Interestingly, almost any common item which can be inserted between the sheets of a B.O.O.K.™ can be used as a B.O.O.K. Mark™, resulting in significant potential savings and eliminating the necessity of purchasing multiple B.O.O.K. Marks™ to facilitate use of multiple B.O.O.K.s™ at the same time.

The initial cost of a B.O.O.K.™ varies with the size and subject matter. Already a vast range of B.O.O.K.'s™ is available, covering every conceivable subject and adjusted to different levels of aptitude. One B.O.O.K.™, small enough to be held in the hands, may contain an entire learning schedule.

Once purchased, the B.O.O.K.™ requires no further upkeep cost; no batteries or wires are needed, since the motive power, thanks to an ingenious device patented by the makers, is supplied by the brain of the user.

B.O.O.K.'s™ may be stored on handy shelves and for ease of reference, and can be easily located as the program schedule is normally indicated on the back of the binding. Altogether, the Built-in Orderly Organized Knowledge™ seems to have great advantages with no drawbacks. We predict a big future for it.

A Boss's Response:

The B.O.O.K.™ does not, in spite of the claims made above, seem “to have great advantages with no drawbacks.” Soon, it probably won't even be legal. Consider:

“It can be conveniently used sitting in an armchair by the fire.” Being made of paper, it might burn in the fire. Probably fire laws in most locations wouldn't allow its use there. Worse, such a device, which encourages close proximity of the user to fire, will be outlawed by Fire Marshals or similar safety officials in most locations.

“Each sheet bears a number in sequence, so that the sheets cannot be used in the wrong order.” How quaint; to think that the programmer (author) would be allowed to turn over such an important task to the user! “Cannot” is clearly misuse; any user could incorrectly turn to the wrong page. A proper user interface might correct that, of course, such as requiring that each sheet be torn off to expose the next. This is in clear conflict with “The user may turn at will to any sheet, going backwards or forwards as he pleases.”

“B.O.O.K.'s™ may be stored on handy shelves and for ease of reference.” The user interface obviously needs more work before such a system can be practical.

“…The motive power -- is supplied by the brain of the user.” Clearly, the inventors have not examined recent trends. No serious person would suggest even expecting a “user” to have a brain present, much less to use it so continuously.

I'd suggest the inventors return to their consoles and do a thorough associative search of various data banks, like the rest of us, and forget this nonsense.

******

Try out a B.O.O.K. today! You won't be sorry!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

4 comments:

John said...

A great post! Thanks for the props, too.

By the way, I often find that playing cards are my B.O.O.K. mark of choice. I wonder why?

Random Magus said...

That was absolutely fantastic. I hate reading from computers even in college when we get files electronically I have to take a print out and strangely enough even writing I feel I can do better with a paper and pen. I don't think anything can replace the feeling of lying in your bed with a good book.

Amanda said...

Hi Bilbo. What a interesting description! It really was so funny to read. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bilbo:

Great post. You suspect who this particular anonymous person is already, but you'll be certain after you read the comment. You forgot to mention that the B.O.O.K can be augmented by a P.E.N.(Personal Enhancement Notator) which allows the operator to, with little difficulty and no need to use a computer, make N.O.T.E.S (Notional Observations, Transitional Estimates, and Surmises) that may serve to increase retention of knowledge or remembrance of particular insights. Unlike the B.O.O.K Mark, which can become displaced or even lost, N.O.T.E.S continue their function indefinitely. Actually, I plan to patent both accessories, and expect to make a bundle of $ in the near future!