477: Typewriter

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Somewhere in the world, my actual grandmothers are reading this and angrily exclaiming that I never write even malformed thank-you notes. DEAR GRANDMOMS: I AM SORRY! YOU ARE WONDERFUL PEOPLE AND THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING LOVE reddit.com RANDALL.
Title text: Somewhere in the world, my actual grandmothers are reading this and angrily exclaiming that I never write even malformed thank-you notes. DEAR GRANDMOMS: I AM SORRY! YOU ARE WONDERFUL PEOPLE AND THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING LOVE reddit.com RANDALL.


Randall is writing a letter to his grandmother on a typewriter, thanking her for taking him and at least one other person on a trip. However, due to a habit he's developed from using a computer for so long, Randall inadvertently litters the letter with chunks of blank space followed by website URLs. As if through muscle memory, Randall periodically attempts to check the latest news by pressing a combination involving the Tab key, typing the URL of a specific website, then pressing a combination using the Tab key again.

On a computer, the Ctrl+Tab keyboard combination usually switches to between browser tabs within a window, such as between two Firefox tabs, while Alt+Tab switches between windows. However, there is only a simple Tab key on an old-fashioned typewriter. Pressing Tab there doesn't switch to another screen, it just moves the platen (the typewriter's cursor, so to speak) to the next tab stop, leaving a wide space before the next typing on the same piece of paper. So the key combination that would satisfy Randall's somewhat hyperactive impulses on a computer is dramatically different on a typewriter, where that key instead causes movement of the platen. So, he hits the tab key, types a URL, and hits the tab key again right in the middle of his letter. It also shows Randall's love of news and information websites.

The title text references that Randall's real grandmothers, upon seeing this comic, might feel bad that he doesn't write to them at all — not even poorly-written letters like in the comic. To remedy this, he writes a brief thank you note to his grandmothers... which also includes one Ctrl/Alt+Tab combination.

List of websites[edit]

Website address Name of website Description
cnn.com CNN News website
reddit.com Reddit Discussion forums
news.google.com Google News Collection of news websites
boingboing.net BoingBoing Blogging
bbc.co.uk BBC British Broadcasting Corporation's website
fivethirtyeight.com FiveThirtyEight News, mainly politics
slashdot.org Slashdot News and forums


[A typewriter is shown with the following letter in it:]
Dear Grandmom,    cnn.com
    I hope this    reddit.com    letter
finds you well.  I wanted to say I
really    news.google.com    enjoyed the
trip you    boingboing.net    took us on,
and am looking forward to    bbc.co.uk
visiting later    fivethirtyeight.com
this year.
                 Love,    slashdot.org

                 Your grandson,
[Caption below the panel:]
I didn't realize how bad my habit of tabbing to Firefox every few seconds to check news sites had gotten until I tried writing on a typewriter.


This is the first xkcd comic featuring Nate Silver.

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The spaces are because he's trying to alt-tab. 22:21, 31 January 2013 (UTC)mr

You are absolutely correct, and the is much more missing. So I did tag this as incomplete.--Dgbrt (talk) 18:31, 19 September 2013 (UTC)
Ctrl+Tab, next tab in tab bar. Alt+Tab, next top level window on desktop. If he uses a browser based email program it could be either 01:44, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
Ctrl+Shift+Tab is back a tab. 20:08, 16 November 2016 (UTC)

I don't know you , but it looks like a "Madlibs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madlibs) meets Firefox tabs" kind of letter to me. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Technically it's the carriage that holds the type hammers for the letters. The platen is the rubber cylinder that holds the paper in place for the hammers. The ribbon is between the hammer and paper. -gateway mike (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

The platen is indeed the rubber cylinder. The carriage, though, is the larger piece the platen is part of, which moves back and forth as you type. Hence "carriage return" at the end of a line. Either one works in this case, since the position of the next character is determined by moving the paper, not the hammers. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Unless there was a change in the way a browser worked between then and now, Ctrl-tab is not something you would type an URL into after hitting as it switched between already open tabs. You would need to use Ctrl-T to open a new tab where the cursor would then be in the address bar to type an URL to go to. CTrl-Tab with only 1 tab open does nothing. 16:44, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

This is less about Ctrl-tab but rather about Alt+Tab. The joke is that he would be typing within some text processor or email client, Alt-tab to the browser and enter an address there. --SlashMe (talk) 22:48, 19 July 2017 (UTC)

I had always seen this one as a somewhat unrealistic exaggeration, though lately I have found myself occasionally attempting to 2-finger tap to undo a line written with pencil on paper, with no success. Oh, the magic of technology. PotatoGod (talk) 05:45, 15 March 2020 (UTC)

i do this sometimes too! i'll mess up some drawing or misspell a word on physical paper and instinctually reach to hit ctrl+z before i remember that that isn't how that works. i've actually gotten frustrated before thinking my keyboard wasn't working before i snapped back to reality too, lol. (also - i do this in minecraft sometimes. like i'll misplace a block and i'll try to ctrl+z on java ed on my computer, and hell even on bedrock ed on my xbox, where i have a friggin controller and i know there's no ctrl+z'ing to even have the possibility of being done, i'll still try it, lol.) -lance ( 01:47, 21 January 2021 (UTC))

Maybe I'm missing something; why is this listed under 'Comics featuring Nate Silver'? BlackHat (talk) 22:52, 24 October 2020 (UTC)

Because of there being 538.com in the list of sites he tried to alt-tab to. PoolloverNathan[talk]UTSc 22:15, 30 March 2021 (UTC)