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Last week, I interviewed design experts at Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, IBM, and other companies and educational institutions about the most recent evolution of computer keys. This was for a short item on the subject, published in the current print edition of BusinessWeek. While I was reporting, I discovered that it was very difficult to find a clear definition of what the SysRq, or System Request key does. In fact, many sources pointed me to, of all places, Wikipedia.
I finally had a phone conversation with Tom Hardy, a former IBM designer who helped design Big Blue’s first PC. He was there when the tech giant created the first keyboard with the SysRq button. Turns out IBM installed it in early PCs to help users debug programs without interfering with other software, a concern in the 1980s.
This reporting anecdote seemed to confirm the research that Lenovo did to uncover the least-used keys on PCs -- SysRq is one of them. But it also made me wonder whether Wikipedia is becoming more accepted as a source today. Is it more accepted in the tech world, perhaps, because it's assumed that only true "geeks" would bother to research and post the definition of, say, obscure PC keys? Or, as more and more people come to accept and trust the power of crowdsourced information, e.g., customer reviews on Amazon.com, so too are they accepting Wikipedia as trusted source?
Or, maybe, all of this is only relevant in the case of the mysterious SysRq key.
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