Dan Wood: The Eponymous Weblog (Archives)

Dan Wood Dan Wood is co-owner of Karelia Software, creating programs for the Macintosh computer. He is the father of two kids, lives in the Bay Area of California USA, and prefers bicycles to cars. This site is his older weblog, which mostly covers geeky topics like Macs and Mac Programming. Go visit the current blog here.

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Sun, 21 May 2006

Clipboard Contents: A New Sensory perception

We all know about the five senses of taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing. There's the term (and movie) "sixth sense" of ESP that people hear about and can't quite prove, though actually there are other lesser-known senses, such as sense of balance or even mild echolocation (close your eyes and hum, then pass an open hand across your face).

I've become gradually aware of a new sensory perception. Well, it's not really a sense, but it's more fun to call it that. It is the sense that there's something on the clipboard.

Having used a Mac for more than half my life, I've gotten used to having a clipboard around, with its contents never seen, but its presence felt. I've noticed that when I am multitasking, and if I get a bit distracted, I might suddenly feel like I have something on the clipboard and I need to paste it somewhere. I've probably forgotten what it was that I copied or cut there, or where I was going to paste it, but I somehow remember that it's there. Often the only way to alleviate this sensation is to open up an empty document (usually TextEdit since it handles text and images) and hit command-V to paste. Then I get to see what it was that needed handling. At that point, I'll recognize what it was, and remember what I was starting to do (e.g. copy a URL out of a webpage and paste into an email message) so I can complete the task.

This sensation seems to outlast short-term memory, so I don't think it's stored the same as, say, a phone number that you are trying to remember as you dash from your TV screen to your phone, or the fact of what is on your clipboard and where you were going to paste it. The hard facts of what you were doing, but the sensation that the clipboard has something useful on it lingers on, perhaps another minute or two past forgetting what you were doing.

I don't know what to call this sensation. "Cliposeption" seems so trite, but then again, a Google search for that reveals absolutely no hits as of this writing; this article will probably be the first! Any better ideas for a term for this? :-)