David Pogue is the personal-technology columnist for the New York Times and host of Hunting the Elements on NOVA.  He recently expressed his frustration with Captchas.  (“Time to Kill Off Captchas”, Scientific American, March 2012, p. 23).

What?—you say.  You don’t know what in the world a Captcha is?  Well, believe me, you do know and you know them all too well, painfully well.  You just don’t know them by that name.

[READER ALERT: Continued reading may dredge up traumatic memories.]

Remember all those times you were online to create a new account, purchase a product, or execute a legal matter, and before the deed could be done you had to retype a distorted picture of random characters?  That, my friend, is a Captcha!  The Web site wants you to prove you are a human as opposed to nefarious online activity generated by a virus, spammer, or botnet.

For the geeks among us, Captcha is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart.”  A computer that passes the Turing test is a machine that has interacted so well with a human being that the human being thought the computer was human.

Pogue highlights the difficulty we all face when trying to get by the Captcha:

“The images are often so distorted that even a human can’t read them.  That’s a particular problem in nonsense words like ‘rl10Ozirl.’  Are those lowercase Ls or number ones?  Zero or letter O?”

I remember one Web site for which the Captcha was quite difficult to interpret.  I must have attempted it 20 times before I finally somehow broke the code.  By the time I did that, I think I had totally forgotten why I was at that Web site.  Talk about frustration!

Alas, such is life in cyberspace.  I don’t know whether to feel reassured about Internet safety or demoralized over my third-rate Captcha translation skills.

I’ve had enough of this.  To unwind, I’m going to take an art appreciation course.  I hear the first artist on the docket is Salvador Dali.

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Posted in HUMOR, INTERNET permalink

About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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