Monday, August 9, 2010

The Cupertino Effect

Cupertino [1]. It’s a city of 55,000 people 45 miles south east of San Francisco [2] – towards the southern end of what’s called Silicon Valley. Wikipedia says it’s named after St Joseph of Cupertino who in turn was named after the Italian town of Copertino [3]. These days Cupertino’s best known as the location of the world-wide headquarters of Apple Inc (pictured). Today I write of it in another, but still computer-related context, i.e. the Cupertino Effect [4]. Though the CE appeared and was named years ago, I became aware of it only 1-2 weeks – via the intro to a Radiolab podcast [5]. What is the CE? A computer spellchecker’s tendency to suggest inappropriate words to replace misspelt words. The CE originated due to older spellcheckers changing the word ‘cooperation’ to ‘Cupertino’ – as their dictionaries contained only the hyphenated form, i.e. co-operation. Users sometimes clicked ‘Change All’ without checking the spellchecker’s suggestion, resulting in even official documents with phrases like ‘valuable experience in international Cupertino’ and ‘presentation on African-German Cupertino’. Whilst modern spellcheckers have all but eliminated the ‘cooperation’ to ‘Cupertino’ error, other incorrect word substitutions ensure the CE’s continuing existence. Following on from yesterday’s Farmdoc’s Blog post, the CE – only a short segue from misspelt signs – may be a nice topic for Jeff Deck’s next project. Ho hum.

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