How Newton handwriting recognition works

Andy Hertzfeld\'s legends of Mac

From Paul Potts, back in 1993:

Lewis Carroll’s famous poem, Jabberwocky, begins as follows:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

This is fun nonsense, but interestingly, nonsense can teach us a bit about how the very first MessagePad’s handwriting recognition software works, by bringing about some “worst-case scenario” behavior. Handwriting recognition was one of the features of the original MessagePad that was perhaps too strongly hyped with respect to what it delivered, while the improved recognizers in later models never received the public credit they deserved.

Potts explains in this Folklore.org story how word lists and dictionaries can affect how the Newton translates handwriting. Interesting reading. And while you’re at it, check out the rest of Folklore – Andy Hertzfeld’s compendium of early Macintosh stories.

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  1. All of these ideas were stolen from MS years before MS implemented them!

  2. [...] It’s on.That low-life crank Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, has been leaving comments (here, here, and here) on Newton Poetry, and I’m tired of the abuse.Okay, not really. It’s [...]

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