Patently absurd – conjugating Microsoft

Well, I suppose it had to happen – Microsoft Corp., wrote a program, and decided its chief feature – indexing verbs by infinitives – was worthy of a patent.

To quote from the application, the abstract to be precise:

Method and system for selecting and conjugating a verb

A verb conjugating system allows a user to input a form of a verb and display the verb forms. The verb conjugating system allows the user to input the infinitive form or non-infinitive forms of a verb. When a user inputs a non-infinitive form of a verb, the verb conjugating system identifies a corresponding base form of the verb. The verb conjugating system then uses the base form to retrieve and display the verb forms for the verb. The verb conjugating system may highlight the non-infinitive form of the verb within the displayed verb forms to assist the user in locating the verb form of interest.

There are books on the open market that do as much. I could mention a few, if the general public is really that interested:
The Penguin Russian Course, compiled by J.L.I. Fennell, Penguin Books, 1961

NOTE: Henceforth verbs will be given in the vocabularies in the infinitive. pg 16

But what is worse, is that the technique used for this purpose, happens to be commonly known and understood amongst heavy users of spreadsheets, Excel users not excluded. Can anyone say @VLOOKUP or @HLOOKUP?

Let’s see, in my copy of Joe Spreadsheet, by Goldstein Software, Inc, Dryden Press, 1988, ISBN 0-03-020837-8, I find this definition of HLOOKUP, pg 188:

@HLOOKUP() works by first comparing the values in the first row of range with x. This first row is the pointer row. Once @HLOOKUP() finds a value in the pointer row which is greater than x, it backs left ine column, the goes vertically down the table to row in that column. @HLOOKUP() then returns the value in that cell.

If that’s not enough, I could quote much the same thing from my copy of The Twin: Educational Version, Prentice-Hall, 1987, ISBN 0-13-935388-7.

Ditto for Cascading Style Sheets. Or …

Do I really need to go on?

Microsoft has had the chutzpah – translated ‘stupidity’ in this case – to attempt to patent something that is so widely used and understood in both language learning and ordinary business computer usage, that one is left agasp. Microsoft appears to be volunteering for the Gratuitous Stupidity award.

Let’s not withhold something so well-deserved!

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