Bottoms Up!

Last night I made an exciting discovery.

Well, not perhaps that exciting in the grand scheme of things but something that pleased me anyway and resolved a mystery that’s been bugging me for the last year.

I’ve been playing computer games on and off for quite a few years (all the way back to the early 1980s when my family got a ZX Spectrum for Christmas and my first go on it consisted of playing the racing game Checkered Flag (IIRC) until I crashed out at the first bend on the Silverstone race track.

In the past year or so I’ve been getting back into gaming on my trusty PC and almost a year ago I got myself a gamepad to provide a more convenient control method for some of the games I was playing. My shiny new controller was an X-Box one (also compatible with Windows PCs – I must admit that while I prefer Linux or MacOS for pretty much everything else, I do tend to use Windows for gaming as it generally works more or less out of the box and there are a lot more games available on the platform).

It’s a great little device and for many games is much better than trying to use a keyboard and mouse. Just one thing always bugged me. As well as a plethora of buttons and a couple of little joystick things on the top surface, there are 4 buttons on the back (relative to the way you naturally hold the controller, which is pleasantly ergonomic). These are labelled LT, LB, RT and RB. The L and R part was obvious enough as they are on the left and right sides respectively. The T and B part confused me, though, as I assumed they stood for Top and Bottom, yet the T ones were clearly below the B ones!

Last night I was looking up the controls for my latest favourite game, Red Dead Redemption 2, in order to figure out a couple of details I’d been missing despite playing it avidly for the last fortnight or so. I came across a handy list which referred to “Left Trigger”, “Right Bumper” etc. My first thought was that this seemed a much more sensible naming scheme than “Left Top”, “Right Bottom” and so on, as the letters corresponded to the physical reality of the controller…

… and then it occurred to me that these were the actual names of the buttons and I’d been thinking of them wrongly all this time. This is a good reminder of the basic principle that was instilled into me through my many (and now, admittedly, fairly distant) years of mathematical training: to always examine your assumptions. As a slightly clichéd but still true phrase puts it, to assume makes an ass of u and me!

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