Following Instructions

When I was at university, I decided I wanted a mobile device. The iPhone and other touchscreen handhelds had not been invented yet, but I imported a Japanese device called the Sharp Zaurus.

It was a little clamshell dingus running an old version of Linux with a custom UI on top made by Trolltech (whom some might recognize as the makers of Qt, hence the logo in the lower-left of the screen). It was possible to sorta-translate the OS into English, though I kept it in Japanese because I thought it would help me learn Japanese (it didn’t, but I can read the kana for “Mail” and “Applications” and “Internet”).

When I received it (bundled with some Japanese newspapers as packing material, charmingly enough), I charged it and then started it up. It took a while to load, and then the screen went blank, except for the middle, which said:

画面タッチください

I figured it was an error message. I tried everything: I powered it off and on several times, I re-installed the operating system, I tried different key combinations…all to no avail. I was afraid that I had a defective system.

As a last-ditch effort, I decided I would try to translate the phrase on the screen. Japanese dictionaries are hard to use (at least for non-speakers like me), but maybe it would give me some clue.

Turns out the phrase means “please touch the screen”.

Yeah, as part of its initial boot program it was trying to get me to calibrate the touchscreen.

If all else fails, read the instructions.

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