New Computer Software Package Aims to Put Feline Typists Out of Work
Chris Niswander has written a new software package called PawSense which is designed to prevent cats from doing mischief to computers while tiptoeing across keyboards. Whenever the program detects incoherent typing it locks down the keyboard and a message saying Cat-Like Typing Detected appears on the computer's screen. Should an operator accidentally activate the program, such as by getting his or her control fingers mixed up or simply by being a bad typist, the problem is easily rectified by typing the word human in an escape box on the screen and the program will then unlock the keyboard and allow one to proceed.
Niswander, who told Salon that he was motivated to write PawSense after his sister's cat unwittingly crashed her computer, was awarded the 2000 IgNobel Prize in computer science for his invention. The program, which retails for around $23, also plays feline unfriendly sounds, such as harmonica music, in order to dissuade cats from venturing near the computer in the first place.
Despite the absurdity and superfluousness of the idea, Niswander insists that this is not a gag. "In writing the software, part of my motivation was that it was a really funny idea, while at the same time I knew people who really needed something like this," he said.
The software package is not really needed because protective keyboard covers are available and unattended computers should be turned off in order to conserve energy. Moreover, any invention designed to put cat typists out of work would not only constitute an unwarranted infringement upon feline free speech but it would also take away part of the joy of living with these exquisite creatures. For old fogies who still cling to their simply marvelous Smith-Corona and Royal manual typewriters, it is always a good idea to leave a blank sheet of typing paper in the machine so that one can later on read whatever messages the cat has left either overnight or while one was away. These impromptu messages also make invaluable keepsakes which often bring a tear to the eye whenever they are unexpectedly rediscovered years later after a beloved feline has passed on.
On the practical side, with there being so much typing to do, an extra set of paws are always appreciated. The occasional interruptions and once-in-a-while keyboard high jinks of an adorable cat add much to the contemplative and creative process. As poet Christopher Smart once said, "Staring at one's cat will fertilize the mind."