This is a note that I’m Cindy To Buy Chocolate

Newton Remember the Newton?  Such a great idea… almost. Long before the iPhone, Apple released the Newton, promising that you could write in long hand and the Newton would turn your scrawl into printed words. Unfortunately,  not always the words you wrote. 

There was a wonderful posting on UseNet called “If Lincoln had a Newton” – a search turned up what I hope is a faithful copy which includes this excerpt:  “Newer are unseated in a greased civil wear, toasting wealthier that notion or andy otter nodding so conceptive and so detoxicated can loading ensure….”

Gary Trudeau ran a series of now famous strips about Doonesbury’s frustrated but tenacious loyalty to the almost-perfect technology.

Doonesbury Aug. 27 1993


Yesterday: handwriting. Today: Voice

Today’s Newton is voice transcription services that do for dictation what the Newton did for handwriting. I’ve subscribed to Jott because it answers a real need: the ability to send myself a reminder (with an alarm at a specific time) when I think of something (or my wife tells me something) I need to remember, but I’m driving. My choice without Jott was between 

  • waiting until I could safely pull over and enter it into my iPhone by which time I would certainly have forgotten what I wanted to write down, not to mention where I was driving to or…
  • crashing and being killed in which case there is would be no point in remembering

With Jott I can just press 1 button, Jott answers and says “Jott what?”  I say “Reminder”, it beeps, I dictate, and that’s it. I’m done. No fuss, and at the designated time, it rings my phone and reminds me. Very cool.

Unfortunately, Jott offers a great deal more. I can add entries to my todo list or to my calendar. Worst of all,  I can send email.  And this is where things get ugly.  I sent my wife a test message. I dictated “Hi. This is a note that I’m sending to you by Jott it.”  Here’s the verification message:


You can almost see how it got from one to the other. It’s actually not that bad.  I’ve seen worse. On the same day actually.

Google bought my telephone service, Grand Central, which was and is a wonderful offering that rings all my phones when I get a call and lets me answer wherever I am.  Originally, if it took a message it used to send me an email with the phone number of the person who called. Now it transcribes their message and sends an SMS. Cool. Kinda. Yesterday I IM’d my friend Alex asking him if he had any graphics left over from our nascent company “Silverlight Consulting” AIM forwarded my message to his phone. He called back and left this message on Grand Central (now called Google Voice):  “Hey. You’re looking for Silverlight Consulting stuff, I probably have that. I’ll call you tonight. Alright. Ciao.” 

I received this:


Just Give Me A Hint

The technology is exciting, and I’m a cutting edge kind of guy… I’m willing to take a garbled message and reverse engineer what they must have said, but I do need a hint.

The trick of course is to pick and choose your usage, not to expect too much and to enjoy the humor in the situation. But caveat emptor; don’t leave a life and death message through telephone transcription just yet.

About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen Pluralsight & LinkedIn Learning courses. He was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP and a Microsoft MVP.
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