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ALS on ER this week

Alan Coopersmith
Senior Principal Software Engineer

This week's episode of ER, featuring James Woods as a patient with ALS, particularly caught my attention for two reasons:

1) The flashbacks illustrating how his condition worsened over the years provided a better illustration of ALS (better known in the US as “Lou Gehrig's Disease”) than I could remember seeing before. My grandmother died of ALS when I was only 2, so I don't remember much about it - my knowledge of ALS growing up was mainly knowing it was why my grandfather was always one of my biggest sponsors in the MS Society read-a-thon in grade school.

2) It's the first time I'd actually seen an on-screen keyboard similar to the GOK on-screen keyboard for GNOME used with an eye tracker as it was designed for. I've seen Peter give demos using a mouse and most of our testing when we worked on the parts of X that had to interact with it was done in the same way. (I was amazed at how fast he seemed to be able to enter long complex phrases with only his eyes considering how clumsy and slow we are using it with full use of a mouse, but that is probably a mix of portraying familiarity with the technology and dramatic license to keep the flow of the dialogue moving.)

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