those scrambled letter things

Slate Magazine notes today that those scrambled letter things are officially lame.

Computers and humans are becoming harder to distinguish in cyberspace. Latest problem: Security tests designed to block computers that impersonate humans (e.g., "type the fuzzy number you see on the screen") have become too hard for many humans. The tests, known as captchas (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart), have been toughened because spammers learned how to make their machines better at "analyzing the images and separating the letters and numbers from the background noise." Now the images are so hard to decipher that even a company's chief technology officer flunks 25 percent of them.* Earnest complaint: Security screens have become an "intelligence test." Cynics' rebuttal: Fine with us.