Wednesday, July 30, 2014
The title comes from my smart (-aleck?) phone's "correction" of a simple question I was trying to ask my wife, via text. She and her father were to meet up with me and her mother during a family vacation, and they were a half-hour or so away in a car.
Smart phones and auto-correct come to mind because this morning, just as I sat down to write, I heard, over her monitor, the distinct sound of my daughter vomiting. Yep. Despite the fact we had ear grommets installed a few months ago, this has all the usual symptoms of an ear infection. She has even spontaneously complained of pain in her right ear.
That distinct sound also means I'll be on the phone a lot more than I'd care to be today, setting up a doctor's appointment and probably cancelling a couple of other appointments I'd planned for the day. Some of this will involve texting. Some will involve making entries in calendars and to-do lists. Anything to do with entering text will involve the auto-correct function of my phone, of which it seems I can never be suspicious enough. I am constantly sending supplementary texts like, "'far', not 'fat'" or "'.', not 'n'", after taking a (usually) quick look upon hitting send and seeing that my phone really does treat "fat out" and "n" at the end of a sentence as if they are idiomatic. (I keep a list of the really good ones, but that will have to wait.)
Grousing aside, and as an article I recently encountered through Arts and Letters Daily points out, what is truly remarkable is how much auto-correct gets right. Nevertheless, "The Fasinatng ... Frustrating ... Fascinating History of Autocorrect" does have its own amusing moments:
I called up Thorpe, who now runs a Boston-based startup called Philo, to ask him how the idea for the list came about. An inspiration, as he recalls it, was a certain Microsoft user named Bill Vignola. One day Vignola sent Bill Gates an email. (Thorpe couldn't recall who Bill Vignola was or what he did.) Whenever Bill Vignola typed his own name in MS Word, the email to Gates explained, it was automatically changed to Bill Vaginal. Presumably Vignola caught this sometimes, but not always, and no doubt this serious man was sad to come across like a character in a Thomas Pynchon novel. His email made it down the chain of command to Thorpe. And Bill Vaginal wasn't the only complainant: As Thorpe recalls, Goldman Sachs was mad that Word was always turning it into Goddamn Sachs.So take a break from your busy routine -- as shall I -- and marvel at the technological wizardry behind auto-correct.
But never let your guard down!