Without it, we probably couldn’t even have phones that look anything like the ingots we tickle—the whole notion of touchscreen typing, where our podgy physical fingers are expected to land with precision on tiny virtual keys, is viable only when we have some serious software to tidy up after us.
Microsoft shipped Word 6.0 in 1993 with a new feature called “AutoCorrect.” But autocorrect goes back further than that.
The idea of fixing text as it’s typed dates back to the 1960s, says Brad Myers, a professor of interface design at Carnegie Mellon University. That’s when a computer scientist named Warren Teitelman — who invented the “undo” command — came up with a philosophy of computing called D.W.I.M., or “Do What I Mean.” Rather than programming computers to accept only perfectly formatted instructions, Teitelman said we should program them to recognize obvious mistakes.
That was followed by the touch-tone phone, and engineers working on ways to enter text using a “reduced keyboard.” The T9 method of text entry was adapted for use on mobile phones in 1995.
But the hijinks really start when the software stops making suggestions and just replaces things automatically.