[telecom] The Apple 'Kill List': What Your iPhone Doesn't Want You to Type

The Apple 'Kill List': What Your iPhone Doesn't Want You to Type

The Daily Beast Jul 16, 2013

Spell 'electrodialysis' wrong in a text, and Apple will correct you. Miss 'abortion' by one letter? You're on your own. A Daily Beast investigation into your iPhone's hidden taboos.


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Reply to
Monty Solomon
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This sort of thing has been going on for some time. UNIX troff is a rather old text formatting language that originally targetted a typesetting machine. It was supposedly used in publishing later issues of the Bell Systems Technical Journal, and it had an add-on with ways of formatting mathematical equations somewhat like OpenOffice has today, but the input is strictly text and non-interactive. One of the characters in the typesetting character set was the Bell System logo.

My (then) employer bought an Apple LaserWriter and some software that converted troff to Postscript for, among other things, formatting and printing some Xenix documentation in troff from Microsoft and/or SCO (with the documentation for the programming tools pretty much identical to that from UNIX V7). This was about 1985. It turns out that when you printed the troff character for the Bell System logo, it came out as the Apple logo. I suppose that might have been because Apple didn't have permission to use the Bell System logo in the fonts for the LaserWriter. Also, expanding the character set would break compatability. Since this documentation was going to be distributed to customers who bought Xenix, it was a big deal to the marketing department. As I recall, there was some kind of global fix that didn't involve finding every reference to that character and fixing it.

The autocorrect trickiness could be a lot worse: 'abortion' could be autocorrected to 'adoption', 'war' could be autocorrected to 'peace', 'freedom' could be autocorrected to 'slavery', and 'ignorance' could be autocorrected to 'strength'. 'Google' could be autocorrected to 'Apple' unless the word following was 's**ks', in which case 'Apple' could be autocorrected to 'Google'.

I suppose there are some issues about suggesting sensitive words. If I were writing a paper for NASA about conditions under which it was necessary to abort a launch, I wouldn't want 'abortion' flashing at me all the time, and a pregnant woman working on the same topic might turn that into a "creating a hostile workplace" lawsuit. If I write a paper comparing compiled code speed to hand-tweaked 'assembly language', I don't want to type 3 letters and see a suggested completion of 'hole', largely because it would be embarrassing if that suggestion got into the paper. Some autocorrectors are much more aggressive than Apple's, and they just make the change.

Reply to
Gordon Burditt

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