Wheels within wheels

T9’s Freudian slips

Ever used T9, the “predictive-dialing” way of typing text on your mobile phone? As you probably know, it works in a cryptographic fashion. It tries to figure out what you intend to write based on the most common words that can be spelled using the numbers you’re pressing.

But of course, it sometimes makes mistakes — as when you’re trying to type an uncommon word. Indeed, most forms of artificial intelligence break down whenever they encounter behavior outside some fairly strict norms. But as Cameron Marlowe notes on his blog, sometimes T9’s mistakes can be oddly literary — or even Freudian.

Marlowe, it seems, hates eggs. He was walking home got an SMS from a friend asking if she could borrow some eggs. He tried to type:

i have eggs but i can’t vouch for them since i only bake with them and i haven’t baked in a while

… but when he looked at the keyboard, he realized that T9 had mucked up several of the words. Instead, it read:

i hate eggs but i can’t touch them since i only able with them and i haven’t baked in a while.

Heh. T9, reader of humanity’s subconscious id.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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