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Handhelds Hardware

Palm Kills Off Graffiti 440

Ed writes "PalmSource, the company that makes the Palm OS, has decided to stop using Graffiti for text input in all future versions of its operating system. Instead, it will switch to using a version of CIC's Jot recognition system, which will be called Graffiti 2. PalmSource was forced to make this move after losing a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Xerox. Jot is already used by the Pocket PC operating system. You can read more about it on Brighthand."
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Palm Kills Off Graffiti

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  • Great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by einstein ( 10761 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:53PM (#5074783) Homepage Journal
    Now, after making my handwriting unreadable to anyone/anything but a Graffiti capable palm, the next generation devices won't be able to read what I write either. keyboards from here out, I guess.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:53PM (#5074786)
    By the Brighthand News Team
    January 13th, 2003
    When you think Palm, you think Graffiti. But Palm's long-standing association with its home-grown character recognition software is about to take a dramatic turn. PalmSource, the operating system subsidiary of Palm, Inc., announced today that future versions of Palm OS will not contain Graffiti. Rather, they will incorporate a modified version of Communication Intelligence Corporation's Jot handwriting recognition software, something it's calling Graffiti 2 powered by Jot.

    The impetus for the switch appears to be legal rather than technical. In April 1997, Xerox sued Palm, claiming that Graffiti was essentially derived from its patented Unistrokes technology. Unistrokes, or "Unistrokes for Computerized Interpretation of Handwriting", as it is referred to in Xerox's 1997 patent, is a system of text-entry using single-stroke symbols for computerized recognition of handwritten text. However, it appeared Palm dodged a legal bullet when, in June 2000, a federal judge dismissed the case. But in late 2001, Xerox won a reversal in the U.S. Court of Appeals and the lawsuit was back on, and it's been hanging over Palm's head ever since.

    CIC's Jot recognition software has long been found on competing handhelds running on the Pocket PC platform. As with Graffiti, its alphabet is based on block characters. However, unlike Graffiti, some characters require two rather than one stroke. Therefore, Jot characters more closely resemble common block letters than Graffiti characters. According to Marlene Somsak, Palm's VP of Communications, this will reduce the learning curve. "For new Palm users, Graffiti 2 powered by Jot is more intuitive and natural than Graffiti," Ms. Somsak told Brighthand.

    Hints to Graffiti's demise began to surface last year, when Palm OS licensee Handspring said it was dropping Graffiti in favor of integrated thumb-type keyboards for its Treo organizers. And Palm itself announced in November that, for the first time, it was bundling Communication Intelligence Corporation's Jot handwriting recognition software with its upcoming Tungsten W handheld.

    According to Lee Williams, VP of Engineering for PalmSource, the move to Graffiti 2 will allow Palm Platform licensees the choice of foregoing the silk-screened "hard" Graffiti area, since Jot can accept input from anywhere on a device's touchscreen.

    According to Mr. Williams, Graffiti 2 powered by Jot will be a modified version of the current version of Jot found on CIC's website. It will be included in future releases of the Palm operating system, including the upcoming Palm OS 4.1.2 and Palm OS 5.2, and will be included in the Palm Developer's Kit (PDK) as part of a unified API.
    • by Viewsonic ( 584922 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5074905)
      I mean, it doesn't matter HOW you write the text, im sure some people write in uni-strokes as it is with a pen and paper without even knowing what it is.. How could Xerox patent a writing STYLE? Can I patent the way I make a capital P? Absurd!
      • by gwernol ( 167574 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:27PM (#5075118)
        I mean, it doesn't matter HOW you write the text, im sure some people write in uni-strokes as it is with a pen and paper without even knowing what it is.. How could Xerox patent a writing STYLE? Can I patent the way I make a capital P? Absurd!

        RTFPA (patent application). The patent is for "A machine implemented method for interpreting handwritten text..." in other words it is the method for reading uni-strokes that is patented, not the Unistrokes themselves:

        The patent []
        • But.... Wouldn't JOT, when recognizing the letter O, be in violation of the patent as well? The letter O is a uni-stroke!

        • thanks for the link. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by twitter ( 104583 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:37PM (#5075686) Homepage Journal
          I prefer the US government site [] to view stuff like this [].

          The patent you point to does not look like something that graphiti would infringe on because graphiti is not rotationaly independent and graphiti uses a seperate area for numerals. Suppose this and other reasons are why the case was tossed out?

          In any case, the patent itself is broad and very late. The referenced material dates back to 1982 and we can be sure that there was plenty of prior art. Yes, this is essentially patenting all styles of handwriting that might be easy for a computer to read. The same things make hadwriting easy for people to read as well. The is why most alphabets are mostly rotationally independent and involve as few strokes as possible. If Palm was ugly enough to keep others from using graphiti type systems, they deserve the same treatment, but it all goes to show how silly patents have become.

          I'm going to miss graphiti as the replacements, short of a keyboard, just don't work. As Xerox managed to NOT file until 1997, it will be a decade before others may use this without paying Xerox a fee. I hope Xerox will be reasonable, ten years from now voice recognition will be good enough on portable devices and graphiti will be worthless.

      • by mcg1969 ( 237263 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:40PM (#5075207)
        im sure some people write in uni-strokes as it is with a pen and paper without even knowing what it is.

        No, they don't. Quite a few printed letters we write every day require multiple strokes to write them cleanly and properly.

        But it's not just a matter of correctness; it's also a matter of efficiency: it takes far more movement of your pen/stylus to write standard letters. So even if you expended the effort to keep your pen on the paper to draw the entire letter, it would take you a lot longer to do that than to write the Graffiti equivalent.

        That's why the Graffiti system was considered innovative: it provided simple characters that were quicker to write, and easier to write consistently---but which still resembled the original letters enough to be somewhat easy to learn.

        Look, people thought that the Graffiti system was inventive at the time it was introduced. Nobody back then said "oh, some people just write like this anyway, what's so cool about that?" Now that this patent dispute has come about, we can't just go back and decide otherwise.
    • by LenE ( 29922 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:26PM (#5075596) Homepage
      Unistrokes, or "Unistrokes for Computerized Interpretation of Handwriting", as it is referred to in Xerox's 1997 patent, is a system of text-entry using single-stroke symbols for computerized recognition of handwritten text.

      Palm using Graffiti goes way back to the early nineties. One would think that they would have no problem proving prior art.

      -- Len

  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:53PM (#5074788) Homepage Journal
    I expect that someone will come up with a hack or add-on application that mimics graffiti for future PalmOS machines, just the same way you can install alternate handwriting recognition systems for today's. So folks who're so well-trained in graffiti that it shows up in household notes they write probably won't have to worry too much about the Palm of the future.
    • But why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jabber01 ( 225154 )
      I had a PocketPC (Nino) before switching to Palm. The relatively restrictive "graffiti" and the piss-poor application integration were my only complaints against the otherwise superior Palm (Vx). Oh, wait, it was those things, and the fact that the Palm has a permanent writing area, instead of the much more clever virtual one.

      Point being, hacking up Jot to do Graffiti would be a step backwards in my opinion.

  • One of the big advantages of digital input is the ability to input text faster than you can write it, graffiti never made any sense to me for that reason.

    Not only was (and still is) text recognition HORRIBLE, especially for people that have "unique" handwriting, like myself, but it's just so slooooow.
  • so long, farewell (Score:5, Interesting)

    by greechneb ( 574646 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:54PM (#5074807) Journal
    I never was really fond of graffiti, it was a pain to try to type in.

    I finally learned, and got rather proficient at it. The breaking point was when I started to write on paper using graffiti. It was then I realized how dependant I was on it.
    • by TrevorB ( 57780 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5074901) Homepage
      I never was really fond of graffiti, it was a pain to try to type in.

      If you were trying to type your graffiti instead of writing it... that miiiiight just have been part of the problem.... ;)

      Actually, you could create a "graffiti" keyboard, with the graffiti symbols instead of letters. That could sorta be cool. ThinkGeek anyone? Nah, probably an infringement.
  • by rickthewizkid ( 536429 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:55PM (#5074816)
    It seems to me that PocketPC attracts many people by the fact that it uses normal handwriting recognition instead of a "weird" Graffiti format. Most non-geek people are attracted by the fact that they do not need to learn a new way to write on this device.

    I just hope that the "new" graffiti is easier on non-geeks...

    Stupid Muggle technology...
  • Consistency (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thatmushroom ( 447396 ) <{Thatmushroom} { ...}> on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:56PM (#5074822) Homepage
    Ok, here [] we have people complaining about how grafitti is a bad thing, but in this thread there will be lots of people who really like grafitti. Am I the only one that's utterly confused?
  • I LOVED Graffiti! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by callipygian-showsyst ( 631222 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:56PM (#5074827) Homepage
    Palm's use of Graffiti was one of the most interesting marketing decisions ever made!

    Apple thought it was so important to have real handwrighting recognition in the Newton, for example, that it was willing to adopt the technology before it was ready. Conventional wisdom said that ordinary users wouldn't want to learn a funny way of writing.

    Boy was Conventional Wisdom wrong! It was FUN to learn grafitti. When I first got my Palm, I couldn't wait to learn it, so I can be "in the club" like everyone else. I ran their practice app, and got good at it within an hour.

    Jot's probably not too different; maybe they can put in a "Graffity Compatibility mode" now that Palm's paying the royalties.

    • by dillon_rinker ( 17944 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:10PM (#5074979) Homepage
      Q: How many Newtons does it take to change a light bulb?

      A: Faux! There to eat lemons, axe gravy soup!
      • Kearney: "Jimbo, take a note on your Newton: Beat up Martin!"

        Jimbo writes the note, then reads it back.

        Jimbo: "Eat up Martha? Bah!"

        Jimbo throws the Newton, hitting Martin in the head.

    • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:13PM (#5075007)
      Graffiti combined the worst features of custom strokes and regular writing: like custom strokes, it required training, and like regular writing, it was comparatively slow. In addition, it required most people to look at the handheld.

      Palm should have used something like Jot from the start, or they should have copied Xerox's Unistrokes better.

      Here [] is some Unistrokes performance data showing it to be the fastest of the bunch. There are papers comparing Graffiti and Unistrokes directly, and, again, Unistrokes comes out way ahead.

    • by iso ( 87585 )
      You're kidding, right? Please tell me this is sarcasm.

      If you aren't kidding, sure, maybe you wanted to learn it for "fun," but you are a big geek (not an insult, just a fact). Most people do not want to have to (weeeeeeeee) fiddle around for ages to figure out how to use their new organizer.

      The Palm didn't succeed because of Grafitti, it succeeded in spite of it. It was cheap, small, with a simple interface (Grafitti notwithstanding). The Newton is still far superior in just about every way, it just wasn't as marketable at the time.

      - j
      • Re:I LOVED Graffiti! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by harlows_monkeys ( 106428 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:59PM (#5075352) Homepage
        You're kidding, right? Please tell me this is sarcasm

        No, he is not kidding. What Palm did, and Apple didn't do, is find out what people actually wanted, rather than what people thought they wanted.

        Apple listened to what people said they wanted, and went for zero training over accuracy. Palm figured out that accuracy was way more important to people, even though people said otherwise.

        Palm was and is far superior to Newton and PocketPC in almost every way that is actually important to people. PocketPC has been able to somewhat overcome that by massive marketing. Apple didn't have to resources that Microsoft has to market past the fundamental flaw of not really understanding the customer, so Newton never took off.

  • by rodgerd ( 402 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:56PM (#5074830) Homepage
    There's nothing dumber for them to do. If you're going to make people think about a completely new user interface, they're going to think about migrating to PocketPC devices, as well.
    • If you're going to make people think about a completely new user interface, they're going to think about migrating to PocketPC devices, as well.
      But they aren't making a completely new user interface, all they did was change the character recognition software.
  • by loggia ( 309962 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:56PM (#5074836)
    I love Graffiti, but I have noticed that most people do not use it or similar applications. They want little thumb keyboards.

    Now hold on a sec - those of us SlashDot faithful are not representative of the average Palm user. But if you look at your sister or boss or the guy on the train, very few of them like or bothered to learn Graffiti.

    Oh well.
    • That's funny, my mom, my sister, and my boss (and I) all seem to use grafitti on our Palm computers just fine. My 4 year old niece uses the popup keyboard though. I'm not making this up.
    • Competing PDAs (usually running Windows CE) have offered handwriting recognition and keyboards for a long time. Dispite this, Palm's with Graffiti dominated the PDA market for a long time. Those people who were willing to pay for PDA chose the optino that provided a smaller form facter, longer battery life, and in many cases a lower price. While they may not want Graffiti, they're clearly willing to live with it.

      Of course, as technology advances, handwriting recognition or usable keyboards may become an option. But such devices are still larger and have a shorted battery life at the moment. Palm's market share has certainly started to slide, but it's not a dead yet.

  • I am guessing Graffiti sucks more than if they would have tried to interpret our normal style of writing, I am glad that is gone!
    • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

      by afidel ( 530433 )
      Umm how exactly is a Palm going to do realtime handwriting recognition? It's not, a P4 can't do a very good job of it so a couple Mhz Dragonball doesn't stand a chance. There is a reason that the Palm uses graffiti and that is that the driving force of the Palm was simplicity and long battery life. I don't think I'll ever get a Palm past my IIIxe because I don't need a color screen, mp3 player or any other "cute" feature, I need an electronic organizer with meeting reminders and I don't want to recharge it twice a day, I want to change out the batteries once a month at the most, which is exactly what my Palm does for me.
  • by frenetic3 ( 166950 ) <houston@al u m . m i> on Monday January 13, 2003 @03:57PM (#5074842) Homepage Journal
    wr:tng in graff1ti was so guick, 4ccurete and oonveniemt!

    whot th3 fsck am i goin;;;;: to do nuw? :P

  • Darn. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by andynms ( 564072 )
    I was actually starting to like Graffiti.
    Any chance anyone will ever resurrect the Newton's handwriting recognition engine? It was actually starting to get good near the end, before Jobs killed it.
    Well, hey, if I got used to the Newton and Graffiti, I should be able to get used to something else...
  • by $$$$$exyGal ( 638164 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:01PM (#5074880) Homepage Journal
    I can only imagine people hording old palms, and riots ensuing. Remember when Coke II came out? Some dude stored a 1000 or so cases of coke in his garage, it was a media frenzy, and then finally, "Coca Cola Classic" was born.

    I realize this is different because it is a legal switch rather than a "taste" switch. But that may give the public all the more reason to protest the change. Will people really give a darn? I wonder.

    --naked []

  • i have been using palm since 1999. last year, i bought pocket-pc and after six months, got rid of it. i didn't like two things about it: 1) not good at recognizing handwriting (it took me a day to learn graffiti; however, six months later, i couldn't master block letter writing). 2) too much windows cluttering. The reason, I bought pocket-pc in the first place was audio record-playback functionality. if palm gets rid of graffiti, maybe, my next upgrade would be a pocket-pc.
  • Mandatory Reference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by johnalex ( 147270 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:01PM (#5074883) Homepage
    OK, someone had to say it, so I will:

    Graffiti never held a candle to the Newton's handwriting recognition. I know; I used both.

    The Newton recognized my handwriting, something that my wife rarely does. I use Graffiti on my Handspring Visor now, but I really miss my Newton. Well, actually, it was the taxpayers' Newton, since testing it was part of my campus job.

    Just the same, I have to wonder if the legal eagles haven't killed another good product with their new emphasis on IP issues. Graffiti wasn't the best, but it was good enough for what I have to do.
    • by c ( 8461 ) <> on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:59PM (#5075349)
      I used a Newton (2000/2100) for a few years and I have a Palm now.

      To be completely honest, I prefer Grafitti. I'd prefer it even more if
      I could write anywhere on the screen (as Jot allows), but then again
      I think the Grafitti pad is nice in that it cuts down the wear on the

      The problem with the Newton engine is that it took ages to tune
      it so that it was comfortable. Even then, I found I had to adjust my
      own writing... bigger, more deliberate scribbles, for example. And
      trying to actually take notes when it mattered or convert them later
      was just too much twiddling around. The handwriting recognition worked
      well when it worked, but it was just an incredible bother to get it
      that far.

      The Palm concept is simple, cheap, functional and (in my opinion)
      disposable. Grafitti fits well with that model. I imagine that Jot
      fits even better.

  • I'm way, way, way faster entering text with one of the various freeware Qwerty screen-based keyboards (VirtualKB is great) and am toying with moving directly to one of those silkscreen thingies you can put on the graffiti area to type Qwerty there.

    Graffiti is definitely not all it's cracked up to be (at least for me) while I can write the graffitis fast enough, I find it extremely disconcerting to write characters on top of each other: it goes against many years of learned behaviour (handwriting) and for this reason I don't think it'll ever feel natural. I also read somewhere an article that was talking about exactly this phenomenon.

    IMHO there is no reason for graffiti/graffiti-like stuff to exist: for pdas use a Qwertyish keyboard (on screen or hardware) for tablet PCs just use standard handwriting recognition software.
  • by core plexus ( 599119 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5074903) Homepage
    Are they just going to sit on the patent, or do something with it? Anyone know?

    Pentagon Seeks Robots-Prize is $1 Million []

  • by panurge ( 573432 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5074906)
    I was about to buy a handheld. Now I can put it off again until Graffiti 2 for Palm rev. whicheverVersionIsTheFirstNotToSuck.

    Thank you Xerox, from the depths of my bank account.

  • How do I "Jot"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Plutor ( 2994 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5074909) Homepage
    Check out CIC's web site for information [] on JOT, as well as a listing [] of the symbols.
    • Re:How do I "Jot"? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by chefmonkey ( 140671 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:27PM (#5075122)
      I'm a bit confused. If Xerox's patent covers the whole one-stroke-per-character interface, I don't see offhand how Jot doesn't infringe.

      If you look at the character chart [], every Jot character except "X" has a one-stroke equivalent (in fact, only "I", "J", and "T" have a two-stroke varient).

      Certainly modifying grafitti so that "X" is two strokes would not have been sufficient to fend off the lawsuit, right? So what gives?

  • by MikeLRoy ( 246462 ) <umroyma0&cc,umanitoba,ca> on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:03PM (#5074913) Homepage Journal
    Having used both grafiti and jot extensively, i find jot much less reliable. White it may be more me then the software, grafiti tends to make less mistakes, whereas i have to correct far more in jot. Oh well.

    That, and all my profs have learned to read grafiti, er, my handwriting.
  • It's a good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hawkestein ( 41151 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:04PM (#5074918)
    I think this is definitely a good thing. I've been using various incarnation of Palms for about 4 years now, and I vastly prefer Jot to Graffiti. Jot was one of the only commercial software products I ever purchased for my Palm. It's much more intuitive than Graffiti, though I don't think it's any faster.

    The only difficulty I've had with Jot is getting it to do the underscore properly. But othe
    • Re:It's a good thing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nomad7674 ( 453223 )
      I am definitely in the same boat. My first PDA was a Philips Nino which I bought because after using both in a store, I found the Nino SO MUCH easier to write on. JOT works with the way I write and think, and has always been a lot easier to use than Grafiti. When I upgraded from my Nino to a Palm IIIc, I decided to try out Grafiti but after a month of use decided Grafiti was simply not worth the effort. I bought CIC's version for the Palm, and found myself suddenly productive again.

      Many say that JOT is slower than Grafiti and they have a point. A well-practiced Grafiti user will outpace a well-practiced JOT user every time... but the number of well-practiced Grafiti users I know can be counted on one finger. All the rest use the on-screen keyboard instead. But every person I know who installed JOT uses it daily.

  • If this is true (and I'm still waiting for confirmation) it's a major blow for Palm. My wife has gone through three different Palm machines and knows graffiti as well as handwriting - tell her she'll have to learn a new system and suddenly Windows CE starts to look better.
  • by detritus. ( 46421 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:07PM (#5074949)
    I can remember when playing with a iPaq store demo and playing around with the handwriting recognition settings (I can't remember what I selected), I was able to write in grafitti with great accuracy. How can Microsoft/Compaq get away with that?
    • by watchful.babbler ( 621535 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:42PM (#5075212) Homepage Journal
      Assuming I understand your question, the reason is because Graffiti and Jot share many common "swooshes" when writing letters, though not symbols. But that is self-evident.

      By reading the Federal Circuit opinion [] that reversed the district court's summary judgment, it seems that the key issue that prevents Jot from infringing is that it "does not allow for 'definitive recognition' of symbols immediately upon pen lift by the user." Certain letters and symbols in Jot [] -- 'T,' 'X,' the question mark, and so on -- require multiple strokes to create the character. The actual shapes of the characters are not part of the patent, so there's no problem with Jot and Xerox's Unistroke sharing swooshes.

      This leads one to wonder why the Graffiti 'X' doesn't allow Graffiti to escape infringement -- the appellate court opinion quotes the district court as citing accented characters in this sense, but not Graffiti's two-stroke 'X.' If I had to make a wild guess, I'd assume this was proffered by Palm in district court and refuted by Xerox on the grounds that the first slash in the 'X' is actually the stroke to enter extended mode, and thus the 'X' is still technically a unistroke character. If Palm had simply reversed the direction of the strokes so that the first stroke wasn't extended mode, then they might have been immunized. Of such tiny errors are great patent cases decided.

  • I didnt even realize that I was using Jot on my iPaq, but I can make the statement that it's not that great. In fact, it kind of sucks. I dont write a whole lot on my ipaq (no wireless dammit) but if I did, I would MUCH rather have a keyboard or virtual keyboard than use pen input. By this same logic, I dont see the tablet PC being of much benefit to me.
  • I see a few notes here about how this is great for PocketPC and really bad for Palm. Well here's a tidbit for you: Palm OS rocks, and PocketPC sucks. I went shopping for a replacement PDA yesterday and I found that the PalmOS 5 machines from Palm and Sony were outstanding. I also looked at PocketPC devices from HP, Toshiba, and T-Mobile. CompUSA had several models. Every single PocketPC had crashed with a message "device.exe [presumably part of the core] has executed an illegal instruction" blah blah blah. The power of Windows in your pocket!
  • Why not go with a Rune [] based system for the LOTR fan base?
  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:12PM (#5074998) Homepage
    If I understood the article, Xerox has a patent on the very idea of a recognition system that uses just one stroke per character.

    This sounds to me like another bogus patent. If something is very easy to re-invent independently, it shouldn't be patentable. I thought patents were supposed to be non-obvious.

    Hmmm. We want to recognize letters. Our big problem is that it's hard to tell which stroke belongs to which character. Hey... many characters are only one stroke; why not make a simplified alphabet so they ALL are only one stroke?

    I mean, it's a little bit more complicated than using XOR to draw a cursor, but not that much.

    P.S. Xerox may score a few bucks from this, but that is all they can manage. Palm doesn't really need Graffiti anymore.

    When the PalmPilot first came out, it really did need Graffiti; handwriting recognition on an 8 MHz CPU with a tiny amount of RAM needs all the help it can get. Now, with much more computing power in the latest Palm devices, a trainable system that adapts to the user's writing is probably the right thing.
    • This sounds to me like another bogus patent. If something is very easy to re-invent independently, it shouldn't be patentable. I thought patents were supposed to be non-obvious.

      Ob. Disclaimer: I am quite opposed to current patent law and its application in practice. That said, I feel the need to provide an alternative view to your knee-jerk rewriting of recent technological history.

      Unistrokes was quite non-obvious when no one had actually done it yet. The entire field of handwriting recognition was relatively new. While many so-called "innovations" really do fail the non-obviousness test, this simply wasn't one of them. In this case, 20-20 hindsight blinds you to the novelty of the idea *before anyone had thought of it*. (Think about the design of the paperclip for a moment, if you don't get this.) Moreover, Xerox didn't just think of it, they researched the idea to show that their design actually made sense from an CHI perspective. Their work was quite innovative in that era's handwriting recognition research.

      I have a hard time believing that the Graffiti devleopers didn't know about Unistrokes.
      Published work on Unistrokes was readily available in conferences, journals, and online. Anyone doing even a minimal literature dive for handwriting recognition technology would have found the papers. Even if the work was independent and/or prior, there's at least some technical guilt for re-inventing a well-known solution. MS gets bashed for not-invented-here syndrome all the time -- why not Palm?

      And remember -- half or more of the battle is in seeing past the now and into that first great idea. That this idea is amenable to a straightforward implementation is a *feature*, since it was aimed at low-power embedded devices.

      You stipulate that Graffiti was "re-invent[ed] independently". Do you have any basis in fact for this statement, or are you just defending your vision of Palm as The Innocent Victim?

      I mean, it's a little bit more complicated than using XOR to draw a cursor, but not that much.

      You are clearly ready for the marketing department. "Oh, that's trivial! The engineering teams can do it in an hour or two, I'm sure!" The innovation here is NOT algorithmic, but rather in the design concept and how it dovetails with a user-interaction model and an efficient implementation.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 13, 2003 @08:37PM (#5077031)
        I do not believe unistrokes is at all nonobvious; instead I think it is the completely obvious and standard solution, if pursued by someone trained in the art of pattern recognition.

        The two problems are:
        1) How do you recognize the end of a character?
        2) How do you maximize the SNR given sloppy human input?

        The soution to the first problem is fully obvious -- use a single stroke to indicate a character. That is, implement the characters as a set of "gestures", where a gesture is a single engage, draw, disengage sequence. I believe people have been using gestures since the early sixties, for instance in "Sketchpad", an ealy mouse based graphics program. On a film I saw of Sketchpad in action, the operator would draw something like a circle, and the program would replace it with a perfect circle. There were gestures for circles, rectangles, and lines. The obvious and standard way to solve the problem of character distinction is to treat the charactes as gestures, i.e. single or "uni" strokes. I do not see how this can be fairly patented.

        To maximize the SNR the standard pattern recognition trick, one I learned in a pattern recognition class in 1984, is to try to arrange your feature space so that the classes (letters in this case) are as well separated as possible. Any gesture based system will be concerned with the class separation of the gestures in feature space -- this is standard practice in the art of pattern recognition. My reading of the patent is that Xerox was trying to patent the set of getures that best separate in their specific feature space. This seems as valid as any other software patent to me: the calculation and selection of features can be subtle.

        But what actually happened is that Xerox obtained, apparently, a patent on the use of any set of gestures used as an alphabet in the context of an electronic device. What this means practically is that Xerox somehow now owns the lower case alphabet, except for f, k, t, and x. Palm did not at all follow Xeorx -- they chose the gestures first for similarity to natural characters, then for separation in whatever feature space they are using. It is probably not the same feature space that Xerox was using since the approach is so different.

        Note that Xerox owns these characters only in the context of some electronic or computer based input device, so it is still ok to use the alphabet to write on paper. Also it is ok to use these characters to write full words, i.e. where letter placement matters. You just cannot use these characters in some sort of input box, in a sequential fashion.

        I think the patent as written is not so bad for a software patent, but I think the use of it against Palm is a disaster. It really does make it seem like there is no point in trying to do anything if they will allow patents to be applied so generally.

  • Well this sucks. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Deathlizard ( 115856 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:14PM (#5075012) Homepage Journal
    Graffiti was a really nice system for the palmpilot. it was easy, simple and fast. I'm afraid of what the newer Graffiti would be like simply because I've used the pocketpc equivilant and even though it's similar to graffiti in many ways, the places where it is different make it a real pain. not to mention is seemed to be a lot slower than graffiti simply because it required more stroke in some of the characters.

    Frankly, If Graffiti can be sued, what stops xerox from suing CIC for their Jot character recgonition? especially when unistrokes looked nothing like graffiti and still won.
  • by night_flyer ( 453866 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:20PM (#5075067) Homepage
    x t i & j what other characters are out there that cannot be written in a single stroke? (think cursive here)
  • by The Evil Couch ( 621105 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:20PM (#5075068) Homepage
    USB port and ship it with a roll-up keyboard. having to learn a new way of writing just for a product to work is asinine.

    contrary to some people's belief, knowing graffiti doesn't elevate you into an exclusive club. it simply means that you're willing to put up with corporate work-around solutions instead of demanding something that actually fits your needs.
  • Jot Usability? (Score:5, Informative)

    by webword ( 82711 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:21PM (#5075080) Homepage
    I know that Graffiti had very reasonable usability []: "After one minute studying the Graffiti reference chart, about 86% accuracy is attainable. Following five minutes of practice, accuracy improves to about 97%. Without further practice, users demonstrate total retention after a one-week lapse, with accuracy holding at around 97%."

    How does the usability of Jot compare? Any ideas? Personally, if I am entering text, I like to use a thumb keyboard (e.g., Blackberry). One more thing, I guess that Jot 2.0 is available as shareware []. It gets good ratings, but I haven't seen any "real" usability research.
  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:27PM (#5075125)
    I do quite a bit of writing (I almost ended up writing scripts for a nationally broadcast show at one point). I've always hated Graffiti. As someone on /. once said (can't remember who's post or what topic), but with Graffiti, I would be so focused on writing letter by letter, I would not be able to focus on the words or sentences I was trying to write in memos.

    Computers and PDAs are made for humans, not humans for PDAs. I know Newton was not perfect, and I've only tried a Newton once, but I see no excuse why the leader in the market can continue to sell a product that requires people to change habits in something as basic as handwriting when the Newton, a product that was discontinued, was able to do so much better. The only reason I can see for Palm's continued mediocrity in this field is because, as the leader, they didn't want to fix something they didn't have to.

    While Graffiti may work for people that spend a huge amount of their time w/ computers and learning computers, for me, who just wanted to use my Palm V as a tool, it is pathetic.

    I think Palm would be MUCH better off (and so would a lot of customers) if they would just go on and develop a "real" handwriting recognition program. If Apple came so close w/ the Newton's handwriting rec., I'm sure an industry leader in the PDA field could.

    Just my .02. Seeing how many people here like Graffiti, I'm sure I'll get moded to troll rather quickly for disagreeing.
    • by swordgeek ( 112599 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:55PM (#5075303) Journal
      Well, I can cordially agree to disagree with you.

      I love grafitti. Well, I like graffiti, although it would be nice to train it a bit for my own illegible scrawl. Still, it's easy to enter stuff into my palm pilot.

      But...for actual writing? No way! A PDA is simply not (yet?) a platform for extensive text creation. Use a computer with a keyboard, or actually write on paper and then scan it into an OCR program. Don't blame the poor PDA too much for being lousy at a job it wasn't designed for.

      That said, I can hardly wait until we DO have such beasts working well.
    • by Atzanteol ( 99067 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:23PM (#5075573) Homepage
      I see no excuse why the leader in the market can continue to sell a product that requires people to change habits in something as basic as handwriting when the Newton
      I get tired of the argument that hand-helds should recognize hand-writing. Did you learn how to type on a keyboard? How to drive? How to walk? How to talk? Humans are more flexible than computers, and amazingly skilled at learning new things. How you interact with a pad of paper may not be the best way to interact with a computer.
  • Jot is cool. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Ageless ( 10680 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:29PM (#5075135) Homepage
    I used Jot on my Palm when I used a Palm because I hated Graffiti. Jot is *almost* normal handwriting. If you just write on the input box you will pretty much get it right. There are just a few letters that you have to learn.

    I found Jot much easier to use and learn than Graffiti and when people used my Palm they thought it was a lot easier.
  • Rats.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChronoZ ( 561096 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:32PM (#5075155)
    Grafitti is pretty good and I got used to it in a couple of hours..I tried this "Jot" system recently and found that it was quite uncomfortable for me (as a lefty). Anyone know how to make it easier for a lefty to use Jot?
  • (Alright, I'm preaching to the choir, but here goes anyway...)

    Another wonderful example of our fouled-up intellectual property laws stifling, instead of promoting, the use of technology.

    Palm brings a great idea to millions of people, and Xerox can quash it years after the fact because the filed some papers years ago.

    It doesn't even make me feel any better that Xerox may be one of the worst run companies of the last decade. It's a negative-sum game. They are still fouled up and now I can't use Grafitti in the future. If it was up to Xerox, their patent would still be collecting dust.

    It is clear that too many patents are not truly unique and deserving protection. A "one-stroke writing system"!?! I guess all shorthand dictationists owe their salaries to Xerox. This patent is for shorthand on a computer! Gimme a break.

    There really ought to be a "use it or lose it" rule with patents, and the patent office needs to be much more strident in considering prior art.

    Inventors are turning into high-priests to give themselves exclusive use of tabooed (patented) ideas.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No way, no how is this an attempt by Xerox "years after the fact" to quash Palm's Graffiti. Goldberg and Richardson at Xerox PARC first proposed this in their paper "Touch-typing with a stylus" at INTERCHI '93. Folks in the handwriting-recognition (HWR) field recognized at least as early as November 1994 that Graffiti was a commercialized application of the concept embodied in Xerox's Unistroke (check out this old newsgroup thread about it -- dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&selm=ameyer-101194 so Palm cannot reasonably claim that they would have been unaware of Xerox's work waaayy long before their product was available on anything but the Newton (to make that claim, Plam would have to be claiming they were unaware of general-knowledge within their one-and-only field of HWR).

      What's more, Xerox received their patent in January of 1997 and started the suit against USR (who owned Palm/Graffiti back then) just 3 months later in April of that year ( cnet). Since you can't sue for violation of a patent while your patent application is still being processed by the USPTO, it seems clear Xerox acted with as much haste to protect their idea as the US Government's red-tape allowed them to).

      So get off your high horse and blame Palm for knowingly using Xerox's work for 8 years (and dragging the suit out for the last 5 years!) instead. Put it in a different perspective -- when Microsoft stole Stacker's work and then delayed Stacker's lawsuit until it no longer mattered what the suit decided, did you blame Stacker for trying to quash MS's self-compressing filesystems long after the fact?
  • Jot User's Guide (Score:3, Informative)

    by redtail1 ( 603986 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:49PM (#5075240) de.html []

    If there's a space in the URL, that's Slashdot's fault.

  • by axxackall ( 579006 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @04:58PM (#5075345) Homepage Journal
    I guess Palm doesn't need Graffiti-I source code closed as they move to another source tree in Graffiti-II. Why not open it?

    Linux community would appreciate it as it is a shame that Linux still doesn't have any good freely available well working hand-writing recognition software.

  • Other alternatives (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fluffy the Cat ( 29157 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:17PM (#5075508) Homepage
    (plug) Of course, there are other possible methods of input than just handwriting-style or on-screen keyboards. Dasher [] is usable on PocketPC (the reason for the lack of a Palm version is that up until relatively recently, Palms just didn't have good enough screens to let it be used without everything turning into a blurry mess. There'll probably be a Palm version before too long now)
  • by Archeopteryx ( 4648 ) <benburch&pobox,com> on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:28PM (#5075616) Homepage
    When I was working for 3Com, I contacted the Palm lawyers with published prior art that destroyed the Xerox patent claims. I can only conclude that they didn't use it. The article, as I recall, was published in IEEE Computer in the "Open Channel" column, and was called the SCANAC system of text input. Except for the fact that it used fixed field locations or buttons, it was almost totally the same as the Palm text input system.
  • by Tattva ( 53901 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @05:28PM (#5075620) Homepage Journal
    Eoe couu tris hddbu? I love eraffiti' Tt is a thagedr.
  • by juanfe ( 466699 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:01PM (#5075855) Homepage
    ... to ensure that they now have complete, total patent control over a technology that no one else will adopt because their licensing was expensive enough that even PalmSource didn't want to go with it.
    In trying to prevent another oops-we-lost-the-GUI, Xerox just managed to do just that.
  • Ironic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by unicorn ( 8060 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:07PM (#5075920)
    I've owned several Palms, over the last 5 years. I love graffitti, it's quick and easy for me now.

    For Xmas, my bud got me a Dell Axim for a present. One of the first things I figured out, was how to put it in "Block Recognizer" mode, so that it understands Grafitti.

    Now Palm's moving away from Grafitti, basically leaving all of their existing customer base wtih their best upgrade option for the future, being to move to the competitions products, since it better suits their ingrained habits.

    Seems like a disastrous decision to me.
  • by identity0 ( 77976 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:22PM (#5076047) Journal
    I'm seeing a lot of reactions along the lines of " Graffiti kicked ass! This sucks!" and responses saying "Graffiti sucks! Newton's better 'cause it can read real handwriting!" and so on. To me, this is all irrelevant because the best input option is neither: it's the keyboard. A lot of people seem to think that handwriting is better because it's more "natural", but they're overlooking a century of experience that tells us that people can be much faster with input using a keyboard. Trying to get a machine to understand handwriting is a cool idea, but why would you bother with that when you can just enter charachters manually, with much better accuracy and speed?

    I recently got a Handspring Treo for christmas, and I'm already used to the controls - I didn't have to waste time teaching myself a new writing system, or trying to teach the thing my handwriting style. When I need to enter 'Q', I just press the button that says 'Q'. How much simpler can you get?

    I've noticed that a lot of new handhelds (Treo, Blackberry, Hiptop) have integrated keyboards instead of handwriting-recognition. I think this is because the "gimmick" factor of writing on a computer have faded, and people are more concerned about usability now. It's just too bad Palm decided to go to another flaky "writing system" instead of putting a decent keyboard in.
  • by Sounder40 ( 243087 ) on Monday January 13, 2003 @06:33PM (#5076138)
    Although I used Graffiti for years, I could never get much past 15 to 20 words a minute. Within a week of using the Fitaly Stamp, a sticker that overlays the Graffiti area, I was routinely doing 30 to 35 wpm. And the best part was the low error rate that I saw with Graffiti. Their site [] has several testimonials of speeds over 80 wpm.

    The advantage is that the keyboard is designed to lessen pen (stylus) movement based on common words. It is highly customizable and supports international characters. shifting, special characters, etc.

    I like it and it works for me. I won't miss Graffiti at all. Worth a look if you're interested in alternatives.

"Mach was the greatest intellectual fraud in the last ten years." "What about X?" "I said `intellectual'." ;login, 9/1990