John Taylor: From Tipp-ex to text

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Dragging ourselves from bed to face the workaday drudge, no doubt many of us turn on breakfast television, but will activate the subtitles to avoid the twittering antics of the sofa monkeys.

And hilarious to read are some of the on-screen misinterpretations given to some of the words. As, in this modern world, are some of the howlers from something called ‘predictive text’.

Not least the poor chap who sent: “Would you like to date?” to the object of his affections. Only for the message to be sent as: “Would you like to mate?” Try predicting the outcome of that one.

Even in the newspaper world ‘typos’ still appear, and in a recent ‘The Way We Were’ goodness knows how the White Horse appeared as the 18 Horse. I can only assume the transcription staff had been having a crafty swig from the communal gin bottle.

But for those of us who remember typewriters and Tipp-ex, and when cut and paste was exactly that, with scissors and bits of sticky tape, electronic processing of words is the best thing since the introduction of local anaesthetic for tooth extractions.

Swapping text around, and spelling and grammar checks, are now done with a few clicks on the keyboard and it seems there are even programs for translating languages.

Though not perhaps for Sea Dyak, which is why we are forever grateful to the endeavours of Arthur Stonton. Born in New Bradwell, he became Archdeacon of Sarawak, and assisted in producing the first complete edition of the New Testament in the Sea Dyak language in 1933.

Then many years later he commenced a similar exercise for the New Testament.

During the Second World War he had been imprisoned in a concentration camp in Borneo, and although writing was banned he continued his work, hiding scraps of paper in buried bottles and the false top of a table.