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Originally published March 22, 2010 at 6:00 AM | Page modified March 22, 2010 at 1:10 PM

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Brier Dudley

Seattle man holds world's fastest text messager title

It was humbling to be in the presence of greatness. But there I was Friday, sitting across a conference-room table from Franklin Page, the world's fastest text messager.

Seattle Times staff columnist

It was humbling to be in the presence of greatness.

But there I was Friday, sitting across a conference-room table from Franklin Page, the world's fastest text messager.

Two months ago Page, 23, was just another intern stocking the soda fridge and helping manage user forums at Swype, a Seattle startup developing phone text-input technology.

Then Samsung discovered Page's gift, flew him to New York and made him a star.

Starting Monday, Page is featured in a national ad campaign showing his skills on a Samsung Omnia II, a handset using Swype's text-entry system.

The ad was filmed earlier this month in New York, where Page set the Guinness World Record for the fastest text message on a touch-screen mobile phone.

It took Page 35.54 seconds to type the 160-character phrase Guinness uses for text-messaging records:

"The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human."

Page, of course, credits Swype's technology for the win, saying it enabled him to beat the previous record of 40.91 seconds.

"I don't want to be too humble about it, I'm certainly proud, but the idea is, it doesn't take a lot to get to this speed," he said.

Guinness' annual book of records goes to press in a few months, and Page is wondering if he'll make it in.

"We'll see if my record holds out until then," he said. "This commercial's going to air, and there are going to be 12-year-old kids beating me. There are going to be 80-year-old women beating me. I think part of the fun for Samsung is, they're posing it as a challenge."

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Swype's system speeds text input because users lift their fingers less. It claims users can enter text at more than 40 words a minute.

On phones with the software installed, users can glide their fingers from letter to letter, instead of tapping the screen, and software figures out which word is being entered by analyzing the pattern drawn by the finger. Words are compared with those in a built-in dictionary, which automatically corrects most spelling errors and suggests changes if big errors are detected.

Swype co-founder Cliff Kushler coinvented the T9 text-input software that's been installed on more than 4 billion phones, and co-founder Randy Marsden's on-screen keyboard software shipped with more than 500 million copies of Microsoft Windows.

The 25-person company, with offices in Fremont, unveiled the system in 2008, and Samsung began using it on Omnia II late last year. It's also on T-Mobile's myTouch 3G and Motorola's Cliq XT.

Page's glory began two months ago when Samsung e-mailed to suggest the record attempt, a publicity stunt it has used in the past. Swype asked Page and intern Trey Keel to try the phrase, and Page beat the previous record on his third attempt.

Page has texted since getting his first cellphone in ninth grade. He stays limber by sending 1,000 or so messages a month. But the fleet fingers may have come from playing guitar for years. After high school on Mercer Island, he went to University of Southern California to study classical guitar and ended up graduating in December with a degree in creative writing.

About that time, a friend from Mercer Island was baby-sitting for Swype's chief executive and suggested Page for the internship.

Just before the record was set, Swype hired Page full-time. Chief Operating Officer Aaron Sheedy joked that Page isn't the same:

"He won't go get soda anymore, [saying] 'I've got the world record, make someone else; these fingers, they might get caught in the door; I might get a paper cut.' "

Page is practicing in case he needs to defend his record. He and Keel think they can text the phrase in 31 or 32 seconds.

"I'm not going to be surprised when someone puts up a video of themselves doing it in 32 or 33 seconds," Page said. "Then I'll have to re-challenge, right?"

Brier Dudley's column appears Mondays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.

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About Brier Dudley

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.
bdudley@seattletimes.com | 206-515-5687

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