Mysterious and Beautiful Objects

Thursday July 23, 2020

A metal semi-sphere with characters embossed onto it, including mathematical symbols and shapes.

It’s lighter than I expected. Clearly metal, but maybe just plated? The inside is a slightly different color than the outside, but it still makes a satisfying, albeit hollow clink when I drop it on the table. Embossed onto the surface are 88 small runes — 22 columns of four characters each. The bottom is lined with teeth, filed to mesh precisely with some long-lost inverse. On top is a shiny black plastic circle, with a small clip. It’s more difficult to open than it looks, with a powerful spring inside, but it clicks satisfyingly when you get it — once as soon as you begin to open it, and another at the apex of its movement, springing open to indicate that it’s unlatched.

There are a smattering of obvious letters, uniformly uppercase and italicised, and a row of numbers in a peculiar order (9, 6, 4, 2, 0, 8, 7, 5, 3, 1), but the rest of the characters are a smattering of mysterious punctuation, all of the glyphs you need to speak APL.

It’s a satisfying thing to hold — an object with a very specific, now defunct purpose, an object for using an ancient computer to mark spells onto paper.

I want more mysterious and beautiful objects in my life.