Mercer Island High School graduate sets new Guinness world record in texting

Franklin Page

Franklin Page

It took Franklin Page just 35.54 seconds to set a new Guinness world record.

The Mercer Island graduate, who grew up in Texas, typed 160 characters into a Samsung Omnia II touch-screen mobile phone for an ad campaign in New York early this month and broke the previous text-messaging record by 5.37 seconds. The phrase: “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”.

It was Page’s job at Swype — a Seattle-based developer of text input for phones where he started out as an intern — that drew him into the national spotlight.

The Reporter recently spoke with Page about his achievement.

Q: How did you get chosen for Samsung’s national ad campaign?

A: It came down to two of us: myself and a young lady, Trey Keel, who goes to Pepperdine University, and she has been working at Swype a little while. She and I both started out as interns here. Samsung had partnered with our company, Swype. The keyboard by Swype is a good bit faster than [normal] keyboard input. So Samsung contacted us. They sent us the passage and said, see if anyone there can beat it; see what you can do. After an hour’s practice, I was getting up to speed and was able to beat it pretty quickly.

So Samsung flew us out to New York. It was really fun. They set it up like a competition. I would sit down, she would sit down, and try to break it, but I managed to get the best time that day. They brought in an adjudicator from Guinness World Records. It’s very legitimate. We were doing it for the commercial, but they flew in an adjudicator from London to make sure that no rules were being bent, and you can see him in the commercial — the guy who shakes my hand at the end.

Q: How do you feel about setting the new world record for texting?

A: It’s exciting — it’s a little bit overwhelming that it happened so quickly and it really is me. It’s my name on the record, and I’m proud of that. What Swype does is develop the onscreen keyboard that allowed me to get up to that speed. So it’s something that every kid sort of hopes for in the future, something that every kid imagines at some point; you flip through the [Guinness] book, and you see who’s got the world’s longest finger nails, and the world’s tallest man, and there is a shock value to it … I think every kid flips through that book and wants to be in there someday. I was just lucky to be surrounded by a group of people who were able to make that happen.

Q: What form of reimbursement did you receive?

A: There is no money for breaking a world record; in terms of the ad, they were required to compensate us as actors for our time. I’ve never had any aspirations to be an actor, but it was a lot of fun to get a taste of what this business is like. It was a very interesting couple of days.

Q: How did you become so fast at texting?

A: It’s a combination of a couple things — it was a lot of practice in the weeks leading up to this shooting, writing this passage over and over, until it was completely ingrained into muscle memory. But much more than that, it’s really this software that this company develops. If you think about how much we beat it by, typically world records like this are broken by tenths of a second, and then it will go a few months or six months, and someone will manage to shave off another tenth of a second. With this new way of input, it just blew it out of the water. I worked very hard at it and practiced a lot, but it could have been Trey as easily. It doesn’t take much to get up to this speed; anyone who uses this program seriously can get close.

Q: Would you say playing guitar has contributed to your speed?

A: I’d say so. I think it helps in two ways: it probably has contributed to my fine motor skills and finger dexterity, but probably even more relevant is it prepared me to have to perform under pressure. I was used to having to sit in front of an audience and do something very technically demanding on the guitar. With this commercial, there was a lot of pressure — Trey and I were competing against each other. There was a whole camera crew sitting behind me; they rented out the space; they blocked off the street outside. All this effort came down to the belief that one of us was going to be able to do this. My background in performing music prepared me for this performance pressure.

Q: Why don’t you think your record will hold up until Guinness publishes its new book of records?

A: I don’t think the book is going to come out until Christmas; it goes out to press in May or June. The reason I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t hold up — I’m humbled by this because a world record is something that a lot of people have to put a lot of work into. I really just got lucky — the fact that Swype had two interns and both of us were able to beat the record, it came down to less than half of a second, goes to show that it’s not that I’m so amazing, it’s just that the software is [advanced]. I’m fully expecting that someone will shave a second or two off my record. But I’m having a great time. This whole situation is fantastic, and I’m happy to be along for the ride.

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