Apparently the biggest reason the iPhone came with a virtual keyboard that was actually usable is because everybody at Apple Computer Inc. was scared to death of The Simpsons making fun of them.
In the early 1990s, Apple had come out with a PDA platform called Newton. Newton devices like the MessagePad were widely mocked for its less-than-stellar handwriting recognition, most notably by The Simpsons in this throwaway gag from “Lisa On Ice”…
According to people who worked at Apple, “Eat Up Martha” became a haunting refrain for those developing the first iPhone, who were fearful that the mean bullies at The Simpsons would give them all wedgies if the keyboard – and therefore multitouch – wasn’t good enough:
“In the hallways [at Apple] and while we were talking about the keyboard, you would always hear the words ‘Eat Up Martha,'” Ganatra recalls. “If you heard people talking and they used the words ‘Eat Up Martha,’ it was basically a reference to the fact that we needed to nail the keyboard. We needed to make sure the text input works on this thing, otherwise, ‘Here comes the Eat Up Marthas.'”
So, out of all the jokes about nuclear power, underfunded schools, and American society in general, it looks like “Eat Up Martha” might be the Simpsons joke that has engendered the most change. Satire works!