Descartes wrote ‘i think, therefore i am,’ or he would have done had he been using Google Gboard for Android with auto-correct turned on. This bug, where the letter “i” for the first-person singular pronoun failed to default to the upper case “I”, has recently been fixed with a long-awaited update. But it took a long time. It took a very long time.
I’m no coder, so I don’t know for sure, but i would have thought the bug could have been fixed just by inserting a line into the Gboard code with an instruction going something like ‘IF “i” ALONE + SPACE THEN “i” JOLLY WELL = “I”’. Would it not have been that simple?
It did cross my mind that the bug took so long to fix because Gboard coders had to undo some sort of extensive sabotage by rivals Apple. I imagined that covert Apple engineers had infected the Gboard code with a virus designed to insert an ‘i’ before the words ‘phone’, ‘pod’ and ‘cloud’, but that this virus had mutated to affect the first-person singular pronoun. But then my imagination does lean toward daft conspiracy theories.
The QUERTY keyboard, i have heard it said, was designed to prevent the mechanical keys on typewriters getting tangled up by clever-Dick secretaries who could type really fast with more than two fingers.
The full row of keys in question is in fact ‘QWERTYUiOP’, and is still with us today, even though most people nowadays type with two thumbs, and despite several better alternative keyboard layouts having been designed.
Why does this inferior layout persist? It seems that professional typists, especially clever-Dick secretaries, don’t like change, and would rather stick with a system they know, rather than have to re-learn something new. That’s what i believe, anyway. And change after all can be catastrophic.
Imagine the chaos that would ensue if we in the UK changed to driving on the right-hand side of the road overnight. A crazy idea? Many Americans, who all drive on the wrong side of the road though they think it’s the right side (it is the right side spatially i admit), think we should.
But then Americans are quirky people who think that the word-form monstrosity ‘burglarize’ is better than the good old-fashioned verb ‘burgle’. Americans also drive a mile down the road when the rest of the world drives 1.6 kilometres. They also think a man who’s like a Bond Villain makes a good president. So, i say, don’t listen to them.
And don’t get me started on the French, who not only drive on the right, but also put mayonnaise on their chips and say ‘appy instead of happy even though everyone knows it’s plain lazy to drop your ‘h’s when speaking. Non! Non! Non!
It is said that a modern oil tanker is so massive that any correction to its course has to be initiated by the captain thousands of nautical miles in advance (perhaps even millions, though that might be the Starship Enterprise), otherwise the ship wouldn’t turn in time and would be unable to avoid obstacles in its path.
Fortunately, oceans are enormous bodies of fish-filled water (try swimming across the Atlantic without spotting a haddock if you doubt me), and so mistakes can be corrected in good time without the ship pile-driving into oil rigs and sinking medium-size yachts.
And so, i ask, is there a ship out there called the SS Google, so massive that it is incapable of correcting a bug in a keyboard’s auto-correct system without taking weeks over it? Because i wonder. I really do.
Furthermore, in twenty years from now, will the standard first-person pronoun in the English language be ‘i’ instead of ‘I’? For a long time there Google seemed to be counting on it.