Martin King, co-inventor of the mobile phone predictive text software, Tegic T9, has died at the age of 60 after a long battle with cancer.
T9 has been and remains one of the most popular ways of inputting text into a mobile phone and is used on billions of devices around the world. It uses algorithms to predict what word you're trying to form based on likely combinations of letters, allowing users to type words with a single keypress for each letter rather than the old multitap approach. With the explosion of smartphones with full qwerty keyboards, the tech is less prevalent but for traditional candybar handsets with the letters arranged on the number keys 1-9, it is still the preferred method.
King apparently came up with the idea while looking into an eye-tracking communications device, called The Owl, for those without the use of their arms and legs. Looking at the techniques he was studying, it struck him that they could be useful for mobile phones.
He went on to form the company Tegic alongside Cliff Kushler (who has since gone onto develop the Swype text input method) in 1995. The company was sold to AOL in 1999 for $350 million and is now part of Nuance Communications.
Former CEO of Tegic, Bill Valenti, said of King "Martin was.a very, very rare and unusual person. He combined the brilliance and curiosity of an Einstein with the heart and compassion of a Mother Teresa." A fitting accolade for a man owed a debt of gratitude by billions of mobile phone users round the world.