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February 28, 2011

This evening I was trying to type the name of some company into the notepad on my iPod.  The infernal device kept “correcting” me and it took five or six tries to get it to finally accept the word I was trying to input.

Quite some time ago I learned to type on my sister’s Olympia manual typewriter.  It was a purely mechanical contraption with no brain of its own; the user was expected to have one of those.  Today I do most of my typing in a text editor – Notepad++ in Windows and Gedit in Linux.   They’re simple and powerful; an improvement on a typewriter instead of a bastardization of it.

After I got home it occurred to me that “auto-correct” in one form or another is woven into the fabric of our culture – so completely that it is nearly impossible to speak of some things, and correspondingly difficult to think clearly or dispassionately about them.  Mostly those things are ideas that would interfere with the way things are now.  You might not think the lack of something could be a solid barrier, but lack of imagination certainly can block thought.

Auto-correct is learned early, in school, as a way of keeping us away from the unfamiliar.

Back when one of my sons was in about the fourth grade, a student teacher asked him what book he had just read.  “Dolphin Island”, he said.
“Oh, did you mean; Island of the Blue Dolphins?”, asked the teacher.
“No, I meant Dolphin Island,” said my son.
“I think the title is Island of the Blue Dolphins”, said the teacher.

(This actually went on for a while.  I think MrsDoF had to call the student teacher and inform her that there are more books with “dolphin” in the title than just the one she had heard of.  And that a fourth-grader might actually read one of them.)

Maybe this is why I get so furious when a machine “corrects” my typing.  I like my misspellings and malapropisms, thank you very much.  They’re mine, so back off.

And in any case, my son was right; he had read Dolphin Island.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. WeeDram
    March 1, 2011 at 08:28 | #1

    On the Touch, just click on the word as it is being underlined by the auto-correct, before typing any space. This tells the software to forgo replacement from the dictionary. This assumes the latest iOS.

  2. March 1, 2011 at 12:30 | #2

    Auto-correct? Is that a small electric car?

  3. March 1, 2011 at 19:31 | #3

    I seriously hope children are not learning to type with auto-correct features, but I know this is not the case. Sigh. Its a great opportunity for some learning we are quickly passing on and I feel the same about calculators. If they get to college and decide to be lazy so be it, but why are we letting them settle early?

  4. Chas, PE SE
    March 1, 2011 at 21:44 | #4

    I spend half my life anymore arguing with machinery…

  5. Karen
    March 2, 2011 at 15:22 | #5

    I’m writing a master’s thesis in Word, and with much wrangling I finally convinced it that I DON’T want it to auto-correct. (I do let it underline to tell me when it thinks I’m wrong, because I tend to be quick on the space bar and put in too many spaces.) But even when I go through a spell check it’s stupid. After I tell it that all occurrences of “serpentinite” are okay, then it will flag “Serpentinite” (beginning of a sentence)as still being wrong. Grrr.

  6. dof
    March 5, 2011 at 21:24 | #6

    Karen, my heart goes out to you. Very few software products are better calculated to undermine the creative process than Word. It’s like Microsoft is constantly jumping up and saying; “Look at me! Look at Meeeeeee!”

    Webs – I am less concerned about kids memorizing the multiplication tables than I am about them knowing when to multiply and why.

    Thanks WD, I’ll try that. The annoyance of auto-correct does not mean I am prepared to go without a shirt-pocket computer, by the way. An iPod beats the hell out of a Palm Pilot. I understand some people even use them to listen to music.

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