Captured By CAPTCHA

If you’ve ever registered for a site or an email list, you’re surely familiar with those frustrating anti-spam CAPTCHA forms. CAPTCHA, which is an acronym for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart,” generally does a really good job of  blocking … me:

Captured By CAPTCHA (Limerick)
By Madeleine Begun Kane

The CAPTCHA form used on their site
Quickly conquered computerized blight,
Because bots can’t decode
Any image it showed.
But then neither can I—there’s my plight.

(You can find more of my technology humor here.

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7 Responses to “Captured By CAPTCHA”

  1. Randy Bryan says:

    Very funny cause it’s true!

  2. Madeleine Begun Kane has a limerick we can all relate to: Captured By CAPTCHA and a song parody.

  3. Alex Choo says:

    Ha ha! Well said Madeleine!

    Sometimes, I think the bots have a better chance of figuring out the captchas than us humans!

  4. Dan Bloom says:

    Captured by a Captcha
    Hi Madeleline, thanks for posting this and yes it really haponed to me last week, see comments on the TEcy eye site now…Dr Manuel Blum, no relation, at CMU replied, see his comments at TECH EYE

    and see this too

    1-in-a-Trillion Coincidence, You Say? Not Really, Experts Find
    Published: February 27, 1990
    COINCIDENCES, those surprising and often eerie events that add spice to everyay life, may not be so unusual after all, researchers say.

    After spending 10 years collecting thousands of stories of coincidences and analyzing them, two Harvard statisticians report that virtually all coincidences can be explained by some simple rules.

  5. Dan Bloom says:

    •Dear Dan Bloom,

    This is what happened. You got what we call a ‘reCaptcha’.
    RE-CAPTCHA. The Hebrew word is from some text that OCR (Optical
    Character Recognition) was having trouble reading on your computer in
    Taiwan. Anyone could have got it. It’s just a coincidence that you
    being Jewish and having gone to Hebrew School at a kid in the 1950s
    could read Hebrew (and that the word translates to “book”). However,
    please know thatg our Captchas do not yet make use of their uncanny
    ability to tell what languages its clients (like you) know.

    Dr Manuel Blum, Carnagie Mellon University, USA
    • Princeeton Observer – 24 Jun 15:08 .I once saw a line in my CAPTCHA box from an equation, Greek letters and all, wouldn’t be surprised if Chinese characters eventually appeared if they’re used in scanned academic articles or books. You might write the people and ask whether the program is also intended to correct non-Latin characters. Occasionally I’ve been curious and tried audio captchas. They sound muffled, ominous, and echoing, like the demons who hijacked Linda Blair in ”The Exorcist.”

    Read more: Captcha

  6. Dan Bloom says:

    Captured by a Captcha
    Letter from Taiwan OCR goes too far
    24 Jun 2011 12:48 | by Dan Bloom in Taiwan | posted in Internet
    11 Comments .Thanks for your comment! It will appear momentarily

    There I was, minding my own business, as usual, working not out of my wireless cave that day, but in my local internet cafe, since I don’t own a computer and do all my email and surfing chores at the rent-a-computer cafe down the street from the place where I live.

    I prefer renting. So every day, without fail, I make my way to the Dragon Fruit Tattoo Internet Cafe
    in my little burg in southern Taiwan, without fail, I commence reading and typing for an hour or two until the money runs out and I need to put in some more coins.

    This system might not work for everyone, but it keeps me sane.

    However, speaking of sanity, the other day something entirely baffling happened and I still don’t get it.

    There I was on Facebook, madly typing away to someone named Mad Mike Mageek, but before I could send my FB message, the machine asked for to fill in the Captcha security box and type in two words. The words are usually English words, in fact, they have always been English words.

    The Captcha box will ask you to type in, say, “deer” and “tailgate” and then you’re on your way.

    But this time, just the other day, here in Taiwan, the Captcha people sent me a Captcha box that asked me to type in one word that was printed in English and another word which was printed in Hebrew!

    Yes, Hebrew letters, Hebrew script, the aleph beth gimmel of the Hebrew alphabet. Though it’s true I can read and decipher Hebrew, having studied it as a kid at my local synagogue and passed all the tests that allowed me to become a bar mitzvah boy at age 13 in the Boston area, I have no idea how to type Hebrew on a computer. And my computer here only does English and Chinese. Not Hebrew.

    So not only was I flabberghasted, I was also perplexed and flummoxed.

    Thus began this journey.

    I asked around. My friends and email pals near and far joked that now maybe Facebook could actually peer into a our private lives and know which religion we followed as kids or which New Age cult we were into as adults.

    But no, Facebook has no way of knowing I am Jewish, do they? Mark Zuckerberg, are you looking over my shoulder again?

    Said a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania: “This Captcha gaffe, or glitch, is very interesting. They must have thought that you were in Israel rather than Taiwan.”

    David Rothman, a novelist in Washington, D.C., author of “The Solomon Scandals” and a founder of, noted with Jewish humor: “Facebook or the Captcha people must have ways of remotely X-raying you to see if you’ve been circumcised. That’s it.”

    So I wrote to the Captcha people after locating their offices somewhere at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, and I received this nice note:

    “Dear Dan Bloom,

    You got a reCaptcha.

    The Hebrew word must have been from some text that OCR (Optical Character Recognition) was having trouble reading. Anyone could have got it.

    It’s just a coincidence that you could read Hebrew (and that the word translates to “book”).

    Our Captchas do not yet make use of their uncanny ability to tell what languages its clients (like you) know.”

    Notice he jokingly, yet somewhat ominously, said that “Captchas do not yet make use of their uncanny ability to tell what languages its [individual] clients know.”

    I am worried. Should I be? Tell me in plain English!

    Read more: Captcha

  7. madkane says:

    Thanks very much Dan for your interesting comments and info!