Very old computer wrote books


A man has discovered some stories written in the 60s by a computer.

Rummaging around somewhere or other, James Ryan of the University of California discovered some documentation by linguist Joseph Grimes, who apparently managed to get an IBM MODEL 650 to become a novelist.

Let’s read a bit of it, shall we: A lion has been in trouble for a long time. A dog steals something that belongs to the lion. The hero, lion, kills the villain, dog, without a fight. The hero, lion, thus is able to get his possession back.

Ok, it’s not exactly Margaret Attwood, but as anyone who has ever taken a glance at a Dan Brown or E. L. James novel will know, it’s not worst thing that’s ever been written either.

The IBM 650 was a punch card system that used magnetic drum memory, and could only hold 20,000 digits at 2,000 addresses. According to Mr Grimes, he was using it to try and generalise rules for folk tales, as you do.

It’s a strange story all round, and Mr Ryan’s paper on his discovery can be read here.

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, machines churn out rubbish literature to keep the masses entertained and pacified. Fortunately, this grim vision never came to pass; and in enlightened 2017, millions of people watch groups of broken celebrities prance meaninglessly about a house full of cameras instead.

Very old computer wrote books

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