2.10.2009

CAPTCHA your words!















Ever wandered what those annoying little word tests are when you enter information on a website? (Just write a comment and try to post it on this blog if you want to know what I'm talking about.) The CAPTCHA word test determines whether the entity entering the data is human or computer. It turns out computers are still not as intelligent as humans (whew!), and they are unable to read or enter text. This little cerebus at the gate keeps spammer computers from inundating sites (or email boxes) with a buncha junk.

Somebody decided to make these word tests work for the good of humankind rather than just annoying everyone. Remember Google's boast that they would get all the books online in a few years? Well, that includes old books, some of which have difficult print to decipher. The pages are scanned into a computer that turns the images into text (this is pretty advanced for a computer), but if the computer can't read the print - if the print is partially blotted out, etc - it will incorrectly decipher the character thus recording the wrong word. Humans, however, are able to read these idiosyncrasies, but who has time to do it? Enter CAPTCHA!

Now, thanks to CAPTCHA, humans are asked to decipher words from old books that the computer cannot decipher. The most often typed word that folks type is determined by the computer to be the actual word and it replaces the "unreadable" word. Well, at least I'm feeling useful next time CAPTCHA asks me to type 'quotidian' when I'm trying to post a comment to a blog.

As my dad would say, what will they think of next?

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