You may not know the name Ken Kocienda, but you've likely cursed him. Or at least one of his inventions. As Kocienda explains in a piece at Wired, he worked as an engineer at Apple back when the iPhone was being invented, and he played a crucial role in one common aspect of its use: "I invented touchscreen keyboard autocorrection for the original iPhone." Yes, Kocienda is the man responsible for the sometimes comically garbled texts people send to one another—he cites an example of a husband responding "Mooooo!" to his wife instead of "Nooooo!" As the headline on the piece sums up, "Sorry About That, and You're Welcome." Kocienda explains that while we may take a software-based keyboard for granted today, it was anything but a sure thing before the iPhone came along—and autocorrect was seen as a necessary component.
"I wrote the code for iPhone autocorrection based on an analysis of the words we type most commonly, the frequency of words relative to others, and the errors we’re most likely to make on a touchscreen keyboard," writes Kocienda. The problem then, as now, is that "software doesn’t understand the nuance of human communication." Things improve incrementally as algorithms get better, though Kocienda isn't sure how far we want to go with that. "Do we want software to be allowed to intervene more than it does today?" he asks. "How much refereeing and rewriting should software should be allowed to make?" Someday, a big advance in voice-recognition technology or artificial intelligence will lead to fundamental improvements. "Until that happens, the autocorrecting keyboard remains the best smartphone text entry solution we have, lobe it or gate it." Read the full piece. (Read more iPhone stories.)