Real Life Captcha via here
If I could force rank my blogging pet peeves, the Number One Grand Prize would go to the proliferation of Captcha in the comment section of blogs.  My heart drops when I see the scrambled puddle of letters and numbers.  It's almost hilarious to watch me frantically clicking refresh so I don't have to pop my eyeballs out of my skull deciphering if that's really a "n" or "r" or "m."

Hatred of Captcha is widespread and one thing that people around the world actually agree on.  99.5% of the Internet thinks that Captcha is bad (I wonder how you come up with a sample set of the "Internet" to survey) and it's no wonder.  One in four people fail a Captcha on the first try and 25% of people leave sites when presented with Captcha.

CAPTCHA stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart."
It was a dark, stormy night in 2000 when Luis von Ahn and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon discovered Captcha.  The hour was late and outside the wind howled mercilessly.  Lightening flashed across a gloomy computer lab, briefly illuminating the pasty pale faces of the young geniuses as their fingers hammered away at their keyboards.  Thunder clapped in close proximity and almost simultaneously, von Ahn screamed "It's ALIVE."  Or at least that's how I picture it in my head.

In 2007, von Ahn realized that Captcha was wasting a lot of time (duh).  With 200 million Captchas typed daily at the time, humanity as a whole was wasting 500,000 hours on Captcha security codes every day.  Thus, like a reformed villain, in 2008 von Ahn created reCaptcha which allows for each human-typed response to help digitize books one word at a time.  reCaptcha allowed the New York Times to digitize 129 years of archived newspapers in the span of 24 months.  The tentacled Google monster, with its uncanny ability to sniff out and grasp a profitable enterprise from the depths of the Internet, acquired reCaptcha in 2009 and is using it to advance its Books project - the ultimate goal of which is to transcribe every book in the world.

So the next time you get frustrated at Captcha and are ready to chunk your computer, monitor and keyboard out a ten-story window, it might make you feel better to know that you and your tiny contribution are helping transcribe books into digital editions for future generations to read.  Either that or you'll just get even more angry that you're helping the Google monster in its endless quest for world domination.

Sources:
Hegarty, Stephanie. "The evolution of those annoying online security tests." BBC News
"The Captcha Madness." Visual.ly