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Human and Machine Readable Handwritten Language? 119

darrint writes "In some obscure corner of the Earth, has someone developed a human handwritten language which can be easily read by a machine? Why is the visual divide between what can be written by a human and what can be read by a machine so wide? At one extreme is the bar code, which I certainly cannot hand write. Machines can read it easily. Bank checks have a human readable account and routing numbers printed in special ink running along their bottom margins. These numbers can be read by a machine and are clearly legible to a human, but I doubt I could write them for input to a machine. My old Palm handheld could read something like handwriting in its little box. OCR exists but I've never thought of it as reliable. I would like to dash off little notes on stickies or in a tiny spiral notebook and be able to suck them into vim, a browser text-input box, and so forth. Perhaps I'd have to learn some kind of machine readable 'shorthand.' Has it been done?"
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Human and Machine Readable Handwritten Language?

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  • try every PDA on the market in the last 10 years or OCR software newer than 1990.
    • PDAs cheat (Score:5, Insightful)

      by r00t ( 33219 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:26PM (#15279216) Journal
      They don't read from paper. They can get extra info:

      * pressure
      * speed
      * stroke order
      * stroke direction
      * pen-up and pen-down events
      * timing
      • Graffiti v1 is very easy to learn, easy to read, and easy to decipher on a machine.

        Check out this representation of the alphabet in Graffiti [].

        You can do X as a reverse of a K in that alphabet; U and V were a bit different (V is easier to do right-to-left for the machine to recognize the stroke, but you can make the shape the same as a "real" v). I actually did some of my paper notes in Graffiti (in University) since they tend to be mono-strokes (rather than the polystrokes to make up them more complicated l
        • Re:Not Palm. (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gumbi west ( 610122 )
          This is what I don't get, about a decade after the invention of the Newton, why use the machine's language when you can use a Newton and it can read very, very bad hand writing? I know people who's family couldn't read their writing, but their Newton could! It was based on learning of what you cross out. The only trick was that if anybody else used the thing, it very quickly unlearned the awful writing and he had a day of hell teaching it again.
      • Re:PDAs cheat (Score:4, Informative)

        by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:39AM (#15280522) Journal
        That's how humans have read handwriting for most of the papyrus/parchment/paper era.

        The problem now is that we're used to reading print. One of the main principles of palaeography is that you read the motions of the pen (or other writing tool) in the medium. Ink in particular is great for this sort of expression, because you can (especially with a flat nib) express all sorts of motions; and using a variety of analytical tools, you can reconstruct missed strokes, damage to the medium, overlapping words and the rest. Some of those analytical tools are, of course, analysis of the linguistic context. And that same context lets us get really fancy with our handwriting. For example, if something logically follows, I don't need to waste my time writing it out clearly.

        To muddy the waters further, no two people use the same handwriting. Even in contexts where the formation of letters is strictly determined, everybody has their individual variations, epsecially in pressure, speed, stroke order, stroke direction, and lifting the pen. They also vary in how they form the letters.

        So yeah, you can probably get decent success using handwriting OCR on things like addresses and bank account numbers -- because you've got a known context, and are basically looking for key numbers.

        And I'm sure there's decent software recognition out there. But to get something that reads human script -- even a forced "machine-friendly" hand -- takes a lot of work, and a lot of training in areas that machines are not good at. You'd need a pretty big neural net.
    • I'm a left-handed person and I ended up selling my PDA because it had no idea what I was writing 90% of the time, I had to use the little onscreen keyboard.

      When I gave it to any of my righ-handed friends, no problem. But myself and another leftie just couldn't use it!

      Anyone else have this problem?

  • by the_other_one ( 178565 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @07:49PM (#15279112) Homepage
    I'm old enough to have filled in punch cards with a pencil. Does that count?
    • Punch cards aren't really easy for human to read, unless you have only handful of parts.

      For the original problem, I think the issue between computer recognizing handwriting is that shapes in everyones handwriting alter so much. I can't get my pda to recognize my handwriting even after training for several weeks, I just gave up and scribble notes as pictures instead.

      Main issue to remember is that computers process in numbers, not letters, to completely solve this issue, we'd need a language that's completely
      • "Main issue to remember is that computers process in numbers, not letters, to completely solve this issue, we'd need a language that's completely based on numbers"

        I don't know how you've reached that conclusion, there's actually not that much difference between numbers and letters to a computer - both have binary values. The only reason a computer might be able to recognise digits 0-9 easier than also including A-Z, is that there are less glyphs to recognise in the alphabet. All you'd by doing by writing do
        • Processors can function with other than 0 and 1, think vector processors [].
          If multithreaded vector processing sounds strange, maybe you're more familiar with the fuzzy logic buzzword.
          Yes, I'm oversimplifying things, but I don't have readymade solution here, I'm just trying to explain concept.

          "there are less glyphs to recognise" - You got my point, it's far more accurate to recognize 10 different symbols than it is to recognize 34, or more when we have accents. If we have language that's based on 10 symbols on
          • You got my point, it's far more accurate to recognize 10 different symbols than it is to recognize 34, or more when we have accents.

            Not necessarily. Trying to write a phonologically complex language like English is bad enough when the number of symbols is half the number of sounds, as currently; if the number were 1/5th, as you suggest, then words would have to be much longer, and reading would become more difficult for humans.

            English already has to use more than one letter to represent many sounds: "ch",
          • I think you have fundamentally misunderstood what a vector processor is. It has nothing to do with the base of the computer (2 in the case of most we use) and everything to do with doing several things at once. (Eg adding up 4 pairs of numbers at the same time.)

            Also your previous post was a bit confusing. You started off seemingly correctly (that handwriting is hard because it's individual) and then veered off into:

            Main issue to remember is that computers process in numbers, not letters, to completely solve

      • by shadow demon ( 917672 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @12:41AM (#15280035) Journal
        Somewhat off topic, but there was a certain language that functioned like what you described, just not with numbers. It is called aUI (with that capitlaization) and was created in the 50s by Prof. John Weilgart, a (bored) psychologist. The language is composed of 42 very simple ideographic "letters" that each have both a meaning and set pronunciation. The letters combine to form concepts that can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them, and the latest edition of edition of his book (1979) has a dictionary of over 4000 words. It was made so that only the most general concepts (plus the numbers 0-10) would be classified as single letters, and I think this system works very well. I really suggest you check it out if you have any interest in languages or communication, but the information available online is somewhat limited. I was able to get his book, aUI, the Language of Space [], through an interlibrary loan, but I am pretty sure it is long out of print. I really think this language has a much greater chance of being useful than anything based on numbers, and since it only uses very basic shapes (e.g. number shapes, a spiral, circle, oval, etc.) it could probably be recognized pretty easily by OCR systems, probably as well as or better than current print-letter recognition.
    • But not old enough to know that Scantron/et.all is not punch-card.

      Punch cards are not coded with pencil, they are coded with physical holes "punched" out of the paper (becoming... can we say it.. Chads!)

      Unless your refering to MarkSense which turned marked cards into punch-cards by a machine that would sense the mark and punch it out.

      Thanks to the last US Presidental election, the whole worlds knows the term chads, even if they don't all know what they mean. :)

  • Uh.... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Have you ever used one of those tablet computers? They do exactly that.
    • Re:Uh.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They're good, but they're not that good. Try writing in someone's name on them. Most of them work by guessing what you wrote based on a dictionary (similar to cellphone texting). Give it anything it can't look up and it'll be close, but more often than not, not quite.

      An alphabet based on entirely straight lines would be easy enough for a computer to read if letters never touched. The software would first detect the line of text, then along the row of letters, find the first black pixel, then find all th
      • Re:Uh.... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gameforge ( 965493 )
        An alphabet based on entirely straight lines would be easy enough for a computer to read if letters never touched. The software would first detect the line of text, then along the row of letters, find the first black pixel, then find all the lines touching the line containing that pixel. Bonus points if all characters had a single vertical line (making this sort of a barcode of its own).

        You took us from having a human-readable, non-machine-readable alphabet to the exact opposite. I don't want to be a barco
      • "Try writing in someone's name on them."

        OK... "Anonymous Coward".
        No problem.

      • So something like the Viking Runic alphabet? They used all straight lines, but for a different reason (OCR hadn't been invented then) - their writing implement was usually something like a knife on stone or wood.

      • Re:Uh.... (Score:4, Informative)

        by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @12:02AM (#15279918)
        "Most of them work by guessing what you wrote based on a dictionary (similar to cellphone texting). Give it anything it can't look up and it'll be close, but more often than not, not quite."

        Depends on what you have it set to. My TabletPC is set to read each individual character at a time. It provides little spaces to write each character in, so you don't have to worry about spacing or anything. That's been my favorite, honestly.
        • That's a pretty inefficient way to work with a tablet pc. My tablet PC gets 99% accuracy with my handwriting. I've added all the words I use regularly that aren't already into the dictionary to the dictionary.
  • Recognition (Score:3, Insightful)

    by reldruH ( 956292 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @07:59PM (#15279144) Journal
    I don't think that a lot of effort has been made to develop a different language for people to communicate with machines. I think most of research time in that area is spent in improving handwriting recognition, ie changing what machines do rather than changing what we do.
  • Sure, it's... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:05PM (#15279161)
    Sure, it's called... THE ALPHABET.

    Learn to write it neatly and the computer will have no problem reading it. Or humans either, for that matter. Write it poorly and both will have a hard time.
  • It's called QWERTY.

  • by philgross ( 23409 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:06PM (#15279167) Homepage
    Most of the responses seem to be missing the point of the post.

    OCR/handwriting recognition folks: what would the ideal handwriting for machine readability look like? Could simple variations on standard English cursive or printing approach 100% recognizability, or would the ideal have to be synthesized, like shorthand [], and if so, what characteristics would such a script have?
    • My guess would be something a little similar to braille. In theory, the computer would have an excellent time reading this, and a few simplifications might make it easier to write.
      • Or so my blind friends tell me. The reason why is that in order to write braille, it is necessary to make little bumps in the paper. Not trivial. Usually a typewriter is used, which might as well be replaced with a computer keyboard. Computers are great for the blind because they avoid braille.
        • I'm not saying actually making punches in paper for it to read - I'm thinking DOTS. Crazy, I know... but a computer should have a lot easier time reading dots than trying to read letters, or complex series of symbols differing in some cases only by concavity. Making dots would also force people to be more uniform, and thus easier to read for the computer.
          • But writing legibly using only dots would also be a horrible PITA for most people. Like filling in the circles for each letter of your name when you fill out the cover sheet to a standardized test, only even slower.
        • [For braille entry,] Usually a typewriter is used, which might as well be replaced with a computer keyboard.

          Braille can be entered into a handheld device with a six-key chordpad [] on the back and a space key on the front. Would that be so hard?

      • That's a great point. Braille is quite easy for sighted people to learn, and is fairly unambiguous.

        As far as systems that are a little easier to write, but still machine-readable, a fun alternative might be the Fardraut font from Xevious and Solvalou. ious2.htm []

        I've got it as an actual font (called "CZP_Fardraut"), but I can't seem to find it anymore. I'm sure it's out there somewhere.

        As alphabets go the letters aren't as distinctive as most, which would make
    • by gameforge ( 965493 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:37PM (#15279247) Journal
      Most of the responses seem to be missing the point of the post.

      Okay. I'm attacking the point of the post.

      There's no reason to reinvent the alphabet any more than there is reinvent the wheel.

      If we change the alphabet so machines can read it, other people stop being able to read it. It's the wrong solution for the problem.

      If my handwriting is good enough that I can read it two weeks later, and my peers and friends and family can read it perfectly (i've been told I have particularly good handwriting) then why should I have to change it so that my PC can understand it, but nobody else can?

      I could memorize a second alphabet, having one for me and one for my PC... but why?

      If I could tell the software "This is how I write a 'k' and this is how I write an 'R'", that would improve things a lot IMO. My 'k' might look like someone else's 'R'; but my 'k' and 'R' look absolutely nothing alike. My ampersand kind of looks like a plus sign; but it's totally distinguishable from my plus sign. If I could dawn this on the software...
      • If we change the alphabet so machines can read it, other people stop being able to read it. It's the wrong solution for the problem.

        True, but that's not what the article's about, or at least, not what I think it's about. The question, as I understand it, is to find a script that people can use that's equally understandable by humans and machines.

      • I take umbrage to your comment, sir.

        As a programmer, it is my job to every day reinvent the wheel!
      • We are using new forms at work to take advantage of ICR or Intelligent Character Recognition Software [] for our service reports. Each letter is entered into little boxes. The reports are then scanned, gaps are filled by a data entry clerk, then we are emailed an electronic "grade" by the software, based on the percentage of fields that were machine readable. With reasonable care, most of the guys can get the machine to resolve 80 to 90 percent of the fields. Of course it slows down how fast we can fill out
    • For simple variations on english printing look at Palm's Graffiti system and the many other alphabets used for PDAs.

      What these alphabets do is remove as much of the ambiguity as possible from printed charactors.
  • by blhack ( 921171 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:25PM (#15279213)
    The problem with a machine readable, human writable language is that humans aren't neat enough. When I write the letter R it looks one way, which is differant than my sister, or my friend, or my butler (okay, i don't have a butler...but a kid can dream!).

    If someone were to develop a language that was machine readable, human writable, it would probably consist of a series of straight lines. Letters would have to be larger, but lines are probably the way to go.


    ^like that.
  • Morse Code (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:29PM (#15279220) Journal
    But I would say that it's somewhere between normal handwriting and barcode.
    I guess what would be interesting would be to have OCR look at 100 peoples handwriting and see if there are any letters that are typically difficult to recognize, and then come up with a substitute that would be easy for the computer to read. Block capital letters should be fairly unambiguous, but I think many people don't write solely in that. I tend to mix my caps and non-caps within words, and I could see where the comp would mistake my F and P and O and Q U and V.

    Does anyone know how Palm came up with their graffitti handwriting? - they must have done some studies.

    • PDA's *DO NOT COUNT*.

      As someone else pointed out, the PDA has a WHOLE lot more info. BTW, I've heard that V2 of the Newton's HWR system works the best of all of them on PDAs. ;)

      I think an OCR could simply be tuned to one style of human handwriting, preferably block, and people write in that style. Then again, my block-like handwriting is hard for some HUMANS to read, let alone a computer... :P
    • As Jeff Hawkins tells the story, he invented and implemented Graffitti in a couple days after noting how poor the state of the art in handwriting recognition was. The Palm's early success was largely due to eschewing the huge problem of reading natural handwriting in favor of briefly retraining users to make the recognition task easier. Recognition on a small set of characters with ordered and directed strokes is an order of magnitude easier than visual-style recognition based on the appearance of a chara
  • morse code would be easy for a computer to translate, after all, its mostly a series of 1's and 0's
  • Um... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Who235 ( 959706 )
    Can't you type faster than you can write? What are you, an executive or something?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think you've hit the nail on the head. Handwriting recognition etc. is for the same set of people who prioritize their laptop choice with how cool it looks in a coffee shop. (That, and special contexts or the disabled, but I digress...)

      Given the speed differences between typing and handwriting (even in non-computational contexts), I consider attempts to do handwriting recognition as a kludge.

      The real solutions will come in the form of portable/projectable/virtual keyboards or an entirely new input method-
  • OCR Reliability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by N3Bruce ( 154308 ) <n3lsy&comcast,net> on Saturday May 06, 2006 @08:41PM (#15279257) Journal
    The typical account information line printed at the bottom of your typical credit card statement or utility bill is printed in a font known as OCR-A. Equipment for machine reading this type of font has been around for over 25 years, such as some of the old Banctec 4300 series workstations used for processing bill payments and checks. Even these 1970s era machines had better than a 95 percent read rate of the entire account information line, provided that the printing was clear and properly placed. Later machines, such as the NCR 7780 [] or the OPEX Eagle [] can have better than a 99 percent read rate of a full line of characters. Again, the usual limitations on reliability of OCR characters are a result of poor or mislocated printing, or stray marks in the OCR field. Here is the obligatory Wikipedia link [] if you interested in finding out a bit more about the history of Optical Character Recognition.

    MICR fonts, which are those funny looking numbers printed in magnetic ink at the bottom of most checks are designed to be human recognizable but machine readable, and have been around since the '60s. OCRA typically beats MICR today, but a good MICR line is still readable over 95 percent of the time.

    Handwritten fonts are the most difficult to read, but the technology has been available to read handwritten numbers and letters for over 10 years, but typical read rates for something like a handwritten zip code or the numerical amount written on a check range from 60 to 80 percent, and are slowly getting better. Again, a lot depends on how much care is taken when writing out the text, and what kind of background clutter is present.

    As for me, I typed out school reports in 8th grade in 1973, when our family's word processing hardware consisted of a 1940's vintage Underwood typewriter. Even humans had difficulty decoding my handwriting!
    • According to the Wiki article I referenced, MICR has an error rate of about 1 in 20,000 checks. This does deserve a bit of explanation though. As someone who works as a technician with modern check processing equipment, I can say that an error rate of 1 in 20,000 does not mean that a MICR or OCR system can successfully read 19,999 out of 20,000 checks fed into the machine. This is the rate that the MICR will read one account number and mistake it for another. In reality, the typical Magnetic MICR can read
    • Re:OCR Reliability (Score:4, Informative)

      by Inda ( 580031 ) <> on Sunday May 07, 2006 @01:55PM (#15281950) Journal
      Being an ex-postman (survived one month!), I've seen the automatic sorting machines that read hand-written postcodes (zip codes in the US). I forget how many letters the machine sorted a minute, it was between 500 and 1000, but I do remember the 90% accuracy number that was boasted. The machine 'cheated' in some respects because it only had to read a 6 or 7 character postcode, of which there are only a small amount of combinations. The machine also checked the county and city if it needed clarification.

      Any postcodes that could not be read, dark paper and red ink etc, were scanned and transmitted to a postal worker drone in another part of the country who would type in the postcode from their terminal. The machine would receive the code back a few seconds later and the letter would carry on its journey.

      I was impressed.
  • Is this joke article or rejected Cowboy Neal poll?
  • USPS has been using handwriting recognition hardware and software for some time. They do, however, implement relatively state of the art neural nets and other AI algorithms to interpret the handwriting, so it's probably not feasible for most people. More information on the system they use is here [].
  • Apple Newton tried. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Saturday May 06, 2006 @09:06PM (#15279331)
    But low-wattage CPUs were too understrength at the time.

    Maybe if someone tried again now, Newton would a better job.
  • OCR (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    what"S wranq vith FngIish? 1 vse a handwntting recOqntion Pragrarn alI the tlme ond it vvork5 great,
  • by MoogMan ( 442253 )
    In some obscure corner of the Earth, has someone developed a human handwritten language which can be easily read by a machine?

    Yeah, it's called Mathematics.
    • No actually mathematics is also written in just handwriting.
      Also the definitions used are designed to be "human-understandable" rather then "machine understandable". In proofs usually some of the things are written out, or left to the reader. I am not saying that a machine can't understand it, but mathematical writing is certainly not specificly written for the machines to understand. (of course you could make a system to do that)
  • How about the stuff from IBM [] It already has a machine readable component. It would be a lot like learning shorthand, but very doable I think


  • Why in the hell would you want to do this. Technology is there to serve us, not the other way around, you moron. If I have to "learn" it, it's the number one indication that it needs more development.

    Quit wasting your time trying to learn how to speak computer and spend it making the computer understand human.

    (And yes, the fastest way to communicate with a computer currently is QWERTY)

  • Machines can tell the difference between 1's and 0's with virtually perfect accuracy. 01001101 01100001 01100011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100101 01110011 00100000 01100011 01100001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01100101 01101100 01101100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100100 01101001 01100110 01100110 01100101 01110010 01100101 01101110 01100011 01100101 00100000 01100010 01100101 01110100 01110111 01100101 01100101 01101110 00100000 00110001 00100111 01110011 00100000 01100001 01101110 01
  • by jafuser ( 112236 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @01:17AM (#15280123)
    I made a handwriting system a long time ago with the following goals in mind in designing it:

    1. It should NOT be easily readable by a casual observer (for notes I didn't want other people to read).
    2. The most commonly used letters should be the simplest to draw, so it should be fairly fast to write, like cursive.
    3. Letters should be as umambigious as possible, so even the most scribbled/hurried writing would be distinctly recognizable.
    4. Each letter should try to hint to the original latin letter to some degree, whenever possible. Although goal #2 usually would take priority over this one when in conflict.
    5. A mid-height clear horizontal marked the beginning/end of a new letter.
    6. (just for fun) It should look kinda weird and cool in a sci-fi sort of way, so if someone came across my notes they would be kind of baffled =)

    While #2 and #3 might work towards making this an easy-to-OCR handwriting system, #1 and #6 probably makes it moot, at least for the system I made. However, I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to make a less-obfuscated more-practical writing system which try to accomplish similar goals to #2-4 above.

    I made a font out of my handwriting system a few years ago. If anyone is curious, here is an image chart of the font []. =)

    I'm curious what other more "efficient" writing systems may exist out there (other than standard and cursive). Does anyone know of any others?
    • Heh, I guess many of us did stuff like this in highschool. Well, at least, many of us nerds... ;)

      Must say I'm impressed with your system though; far easier to write quickly with it than with the system I developed. Mine was more like writing everything in captials, while yours has a nice flow to it... Would you care to share the font you created of it?

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hey, that's really cool. Two points though: The capitalisation looks hard to do, I suggest some other system - bear in mind that capitals are always the first letter in a word, so I suggest losing the initial horizontal mark since it's not required for joined up writing.
      Second - too much backtracking, try and avoid the 180 degree pen reverses. Lose them and you'll have a great system.
    • ...or alternatively, please unambiguously authorize people to hack up their own TTF of your glyphs and distribute it as OSS.
    • I went one further and invented my own shorthand.

      I had a quick look at both Pitman's [] and Teeline [], but neither seemed suitable. (For example, Pitman's needs you to distinguish light and firm strokes, and I tended to use a fountain pen which prevented that. It also needs a horizontal line, which I didn't want to rely on, and optimises for writing speed at the expense of paper used. Teeline looked better, but is alphabetic rather than phonetic, making it longer-winded than necessary. And neither seemed t

  • You know? Those dots in convenient, rectangular patterns? I'm sure a braile teacher (with sight) can read what all those men, women bathroom signs say in movie theaters and other random places. Those dots might not be very convenient to draw with a ball point pen, but if you wanted to design a pen for a different style of writing, I'd use a whiteout as a template, filled with magnetic ink.

    Probably 100 times more legible once you get used to learning braile, and super machine readable so long as you'
  • Hiragana or Katakana has a specific traditional form which should be machine readable. Japanese kids spend ages learning the correct stroke order and style.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The reason for the difficulty with regard to handwriting is the following: Humans can usually read much faster than they can write. Therefore, to mitigate that fact, handwriting is usually optimized for speedy writing than readability. It is assumed that making it harder to read isn't much of a problem since humans can already read fast so a bit of a slowdown due to a somewhat fuzzy handwriting isn't much of a problem. On the other hand, writing neatly takes a lot of time but makes reading easier.

    So handwri
  • by Kuukai ( 865890 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @04:41AM (#15280529) Journal
    This [] can read them better than I can (check out the crazy examples)!
  • different alphabets (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RogerWilco ( 99615 ) on Sunday May 07, 2006 @07:59AM (#15280849) Homepage Journal
    What I find annoying on my PocketPC, is that as long as you only use US english, it performs reasonably well in recognizing my writing and guessing words, but my native language is Dutch. This gives 2 problems:
    - It tries to guess Dutch words using an US English dictionairy, which is so much of a PITA that I switch off the entire dictionairy function.
    - Dutch has a few characters that aren't in the standard US character set, this leaves me "international" as the only other option, but this also contains a lot of characters I will never use, and only cause confusion for the OCR system.
    - Next to that I don't like that it forces you to learn it's alphabet instead of it learning yours.

    In short I am very disappointed about my PocketPC, also because of some other limitations I was unaware of when I bought it. (remove battery and it forgets everything, coupled with an ActiveSync backup that doesn't work; I'm lefthanded, which makes the user interface very akward), I now have a Nokia Series 60 phone and prefer that.
  • I used to sometimes try to approximate different fonts particularly typewriter-like serif fonts like courier. Even now sometimes I emphasize things by adding serifs.

    However probably all caps would be easiest to read I would imagine, that or using grid paper which helped you to keep discipline. Of course this is assuming you don't use something to help capture in advance, like Anoto's system.

    I just had a flashback from all those movies where you see ICBM operators get a phone call and they whip out a noteb
  • by Sparr0 ( 451780 ) <> on Sunday May 07, 2006 @02:51PM (#15282121) Homepage Journal
    A purely constructed alphabet that would be easy for humans to write and easy for machines to read would involve a group of connected strokes.

    |\ /|
    | X |
    |/ \|

    From the 6 strokes here you have 64 total possible combinations. Discard the 24 that are disjoint and youve still got plenty for 26 letters and 10 numbers.

    As to an english-based alphabet, the problem is that so many letters are far too similar, especially b / h / k, i / j, rn / m, and that handwriting is too fluctuous. Capital letters are an obsolete idea that only further complicates things.

    The outdated nature of most written languages is mirrored in spoken alphabets. There is absolutely no reason for 'w' to have a 3 syllable name. I have encounterd a number of people who say "www" as "dub dub dub", and I am considering spending a week or two training myself to permanently replace "double-u" with "dub" in my vocabulary (that is how long it took me to unlearn 20 years of tying my shoelaces wastefully and ingraining a better faster way).
    • (that is how long it took me to unlearn 20 years of tying my shoelaces wastefully and ingraining a better faster way).

      Okay, I'm dying to know... what's the better way?

      (Please don't say it's velcro.)

    • 'dub' ?

      in Dutch, we pronounce w as "Way", and it rhymes with v ("Vay")

      Vee and Wee or Vee and Way would make more sense than 'dub'
      • I disagree. I think the names of the alphabetic characters should be as unique and short as possible. One syllable each, and as few consonants as possible sharing the same vowel sound. Em / En, Eff / Ess, Bee / Cee / Dee / E / Gee / Pee / Tee / Vee / Zee... these are HORRIBLE when trying to spell things out to someone. They are the reason we have 'alphabets' like "Alpha Beta Charlie..." etc.

        In terms of English specifically, we have 26 letters to share about 10 vowel sounds (depending on dialect, accent
  • This is what gadgets using c-pen [] and anoto [] technologies is for (I have no affiliation with them). I know gadgets wasn't what you asked for - but these are the closest solutions I have seen.
  • Most businesses that I know of use an ingenious system. Each computer has a device that's about 18 inches long and 8 inches wide. It has a series of buttons on it, and each button corresponds with a letter. When the user wants to write something that can be interpreted by the compuer, he or she just pushes a button for each letter.

    Such devices are becoming quite popular because they're faster then handwriting! Hopefully we'll eventually find one in every office and home!

If you can't understand it, it is intuitively obvious.