RACTER

In 1982, William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter programmed a computer in BASIC to write English. They did this by programming in specific grammatical rules and structures. The point of the experiment was to give the impression of communication – what was said was secondary to the fact that it was saying it correctly. While most of it was nonsense, it created (by chance) some surprisingly lucid prose:

More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity. I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber. I need it for my dreams.

Bill sings to Sarah. Sarah sings to Bill. Perhaps they will do other dangerous things together. They may eat lamb or stroke each other. They may chant of their difficulties and their happiness. They have love but they also have typewriters. That is interesting.

A crow is a bird, an eagle is a bird, a dove is a bird. They all fly in the night and in the day. They fly when the sky is red and when the heaven is blue. They fly through the atmosphere. We cannot fly. We are not like a crow or an eagle or a dove. We are not birds. But we can dream about them. You can.

A tree or shrub can grow and bloom. I am always the same. But I am clever.

Some of the program’s work was actually published in OMNI magazine. It concluded with some rambling about eating a leotard which was produced by a horde of commissioners, and went on to conclude: “Is that thought understandable to you? … I wonder. Yet a leotard, a commissioner, a single horde, all are understandable in their own fashion. In that concept lies the appalling truth.”

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One response to “RACTER

  1. Is that a true story? If so, very cool.

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