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A Future Retrospective

You see, kids, back in the day before Microsoft was overtaken in the digital market-place by more ethical, prolific, and beneficent tech companies, there was a computer program called “Microsoft Word”. *Trumpets*. This ingenious program was an upgrade from the most basic word processors that predated the personal computer and ended the typewriter’s monopoly on vexing everyone from high school seniors in the 1970s to budding novelists well into the 1990s. Yes, Microsoft Word promised to let you fix your mistakes the moment you made them! Erroneous grammar, punctuation, and spelling could be corrected in real time right on the display screen- before wasting any paper or ink. That is, if you could spot the offenders.

Later versions of Microsoft Word were engineered and upgraded to be inhumanely “helpful”. Think about the autocorrect function in the smart phones of the 2000s but make it snobby. Like, imagine every other word is flagged with various squiggles and color-coded underlines that silently distract you with a glaring “do you even know what rule you just broke?” So much for my stream of consciousness, now I’m responding to the condescending AI instead of writing an ode to my intelligence! How do you know I didn’t mean to spell it like that? Who are you to tell me what a run-on sentence is—you don’t even have lips! … … …but wait… does the comma go before or after the quotation marks? How do you spell susipisiscious? ONE macro and I went from being confident to completely defeated.

Like all tools invented to make a human’s life easier, the tool can vex you indefinitely until you comprehend how to use it the way it was intended… and even then it may vex you still. I imagine the creators sitting in a room brainstorming how to make the interface more friendly AND give the user an option to insert an image into their document, yet design the function so terribly that no one wants to use it. PowerPoint solved that problem… unless you want your slideshow to be a document.

With the improvements to Word coinciding with changing priorities in the school systems we were being groomed to rely on anything but our own understanding. The downward spelling spiral was imminent and within a decade or two we went from owning our mistakes to failing to recognize them completely. We had no concept of how bad it was going to get until the 2010s when Apple bought patents on how their iPhones processed texts. As I write this my iPhone 11 sits next to me insisting that I’m spelling my own name wrong if there’s not a capital letter in the middle of it. I can’t even swear about ducking AutoCorrect, and one time I tried to ask my friend about her A N I M A L S and it changed to “How are your anals?”

I didn’t even realize something was wrong until she replied with,

“ummmm…. fine, I guess? …how are yours, MeLanie?"

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