There Must Be an Angel
On the Beginnings of the Arithmetics of Rays
From August 1953 to May 1954 strange love-letters appeared on the notice
board of Manchester University's Computer Department:
YOU ARE MY AVID FELLOW FEELING. MY AFFECTION CURIOUSLY CLINGS TO YOUR
PASSIONATE WISH. MY LIKING YEARNS FOR YOUR HEART. YOU ARE MY WISTFUL
SYMPATHY: MY TENDER LIKING.
M. U. C."
The acronym "M.U.C." stood for "Manchester University Computer", the earliest
electronic, programmable, and universal calculating machine; the fully
functional prototype was completed in June 1948. One of the very first software
developers, Christopher Strachey (1916–1975), had used the built-in random
generator of the Ferranti Mark I, the first industrially produced computer of this kind, to generate texts that are intended to express and arouse emotions. The British physicist performed this experiment a full thirteen years before the appearance of Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA, which is commonly – and mistakenly – held to be the earliest example of computer-generated texts.
There Must Be an Angel. On the Beginnings of the Arithmetics of Rays, in: Variantology 2. On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies, eds. Siegfried Zielinski and David Link (Cologne: König, 2006): 15-42.
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