Computers Why

 

QUESTION: I have two questions. First, what made you enter the world of computers in the 1960s without laptops or desktops? Did you see the potential for the future? Second, you had said you were working on bringing voice to Socrates online. Where do you stand with that?

KN

 

ANSWER: My father wanted me to be a lawyer. When he saw I did not want to be a lawyer but enjoyed trading, he felt that trading was not a respectable profession. So he pushed me into computers. Back then, they were big mainframes. You really could not go to a university because they could not afford a main frame for students. So RCA set up their Technical Institute sort of like Microsoft does today. Most people from various paths went there.

This even predated IBM, which eventually bought RCA’s computer division when IBM was a typewriter company. RCA had all the government contracts back then. They thought the computer would become like the radio dropping in price so they sold what they thought was the top.
Dragon Systems R

I had to develop speech capability back then just to be able to communicate because it was making what I thought were impossible forecasts. I worked with Dragon Systems in the ’80s when the speech was all hardware. I needed to inquire how it came up with such a forecast as it did on the British pound. It had also projected that the politics would flip (i.e., Margaret Thatcher) and that the British economy would invert and align more with the USA against continental Europe. That prediction seemed to be really off-the-wall. I inquired: why?

It was paramount to teach the computer even how to have a conversation. I used my kids as test subjects and wrote a program to teach it how to be a politician and change the subject when it did not understand.  My daughter would talk with it, and it would record facts. Do you have a dog? Yes. What is its name? Fluffy. The next time she came back to the computer, it would ask: How was fluffy? She would bring her friends over, and they were amazed a computer would talk. She came home one day, and I was working on the hardware. She began crying, thinking I had killed it.

I have my father to thank for that. I loved trading, and I quickly saw I could write a program to trade back in the 1970s. Yes, we are working hard on the voice so you, too, can ask questions.

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