Friday, September 10, 2004


Before the blogosphere (yours truly not excepted) gets too excited about breaking the "Bush AWOL document hoax" story and bringing down Dan Rather, it might be useful to step back and note a few things:

1) The documents in question that have been subjected to scrutiny perhaps never before seen anywhere are copies of the originals. Even the gaggle of experts trotted out by the big media acknowledge that they can't be sure unless and until they see the originals. If said originals are produced and they contain irrefutable evidence of being type-written (impact impressions that go through to the back side of the paper for example), there will be a lot of crow to eat in many corners of blogosphere.

2) Before one gets too excited about the magical things that only computer word processors can do that were impossible in the stone age of typewriters, one should check out this site. Note that the first Selectric Composer was released by IBM in 1966. Then, read the user's guide and note how many of the "impossible" things were actually possible in the mechanical age. As I read it, even the now infamous "superscript th" would be possible to create (see pages 88-89 of the User's Guide) although one wonders why someone would go to the trouble in writing a short memo. NOTE: I am not claiming that the IBM Composer can "kern," because it can't. But it is difficult for my uneducated and unaided eyes me to distinguish between kerning and proportional spacing. Nor do I have anything to add about whether the documents in question adhere to Knuth's algorithim or not; I simply have no way to judge one way or the other.

It may very well be that the blogosphere has caught the big media napping (or worse) but that doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt to be careful and meticulous.

Mr Larsen,
Please turn on the Atom XML feature and put a link on your page, so I can read your headlines on my desktop aggregator. Thanks.

Frank Kelly
Costa Rica Expat
good points Dr Larsen!!

too bad CBS had ABBA amateurs feeding this to Rather... They've "screwed the pooch"...
Good points all, to which I would add:

The kerning issue doesn't seem rock-solid to me. The o's are underneath the t's in the CBS docs, but the effect is exaggerated (or possibly even created) by the generations of photocopying. Another item that can't be determined without the originals.

("Generations of photocopying" - ironic)

I think the biggest giveaway is the line centering.

p.s. I like the new look! Nice...
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