When I trained to be a doctor, some four decades ago, everyone neglected sleep. “On call” duty for hospital interns began at 6 A.M. and lasted twenty-four hours; I often kept on working until early evening the next day, after which I would stumble back to my apartment and fall asleep in my clothes. The ethic was not to complain. You were being toughened up—“iron man” was the term we all used—to deal with the demands of doctoring, which did not respect the clock. But that wasn’t the only way in which sleep was disregarded. In medical school, the subject had been covered in only the most cursory way. In a class on the brain, an instructor mentioned a neural pathway, the reticular activating system, that was associated with wakefulness. In passing, he also told us about narcolepsy, a rare condition that could cause people to sink into slumber at any moment and that had other fascinating features, such as vivid hallucinations and abrupt loss of muscle control. That was it. Ordinary sleep, it seemed, was not a subject that medicine concerned itself with.
Today, interns still work difficult hours, but the medical world’s opinions on sleep have changed. There’s a field of sleep science dedicated to the biology of repose. Sleep medicine has become a specialty, with fellowship training programs and clinics devoted to caring for those suffering from sleep disorders. And these disorders are not rare. Some forty-seven million adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation, do not get a restorative night’s sleep. In the workplace, sleep deprivation results in injuries and decreased productivity, which is thought to cost the U.S. eighteen billion dollars each year. As many as 1.2 million car crashes—twenty per cent of the annual total—can be attributed to tired drivers, so it could be said that lack of sleep causes thousands of deaths and injuries every year.
About 10 years ago, after permutations ranging from Atari 2600 joysticks to Sega Genesis "C" buttons, console game controllers arrived at something resembling a standard. A modern console controller must have: Two clickable sticks and a D-pad, four face buttons, a pair of triggers, a start and options button, and a pair of shoulder buttons.
That configuration has held steady for at least one full console generation. The modern PS4 controller, Xbox One controller, and Nintendo Switch Pro controller all have more or less the same functionality as their predecessors. Of course, some people still think it's time for new ideas.
For many patients, getting institutionalized at an asylum such as Broadmoor marked the end of their useful lives. But not Minor. From the solitude of his cell in Broadmoor’s Cell Block Two, he’d become the most productive and successful outside contributor to the most comprehensive reference book in the English language: The Oxford English Dictionary.