According to an article by Lev Grossman in Time magazine (21 Feb 2011):
On Feb. 15, 1965, a diffident but self-possessed high school student named Raymond Kurzweil appeared as a guest on a game show called ‘I’ve got a Secret.’ He was introduced by the host, Steve Allen, then he played a short musical composition on a piano. The idea was that Kurzweil was hiding an unusual fact and the panelists–they included a comedian and a former Miss America–had to guess what it was.
On the show, the beauty queen did a good job of grilling Kurzweil, but the comedian got the win: the music was composed by a computer. Kurzweil got $200.
Kurzweil then demonstrated the computer, which he built himself–a desk-size affair with loudly clacking relays, hooked up to a typewriter. The panelists were pretty blase about it; they were more impressed with Kurzweil’s age than by anything he’s actually accomplished. . .
Compare that to the most recent ballyhooed computer demonstration on TV. This time on ‘Jeopardy.’ Starting on Feb. 14, 2011, a computer named Watson competed against senscient competition:
Watson runs on 90 servers and takes up an entire room, and in a practice match in January it finished ahead of two former champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. It got every question it answered right, but much more important, it didn’t need help understanding the questions (or, strictly speaking the answers), which were phrased in plain English. Watson isn’t strong AI (artificial intelligence), but if strong AI happens, it will arrive gradually, bit by bit, and this will have been one of the bits.
Well Watson stomped Jennings and Rutter. And the three-day event turned out to be one long commercial for IBM. It was sort of a P.T. Barnum-type stunt. But it was still interesting. The “answers” seemed convoluted enough to really test Watson’s natural language skills. And machine got most of its “questions” correct. However, it appeared as if the computer had an advantage on buzzing in; faster reflexes?
While it might not seem like much, the two computer events described above do illustrate the remarkable progress that has occurred in computing over the last 46 years. And if this progress continues to be exponential . . . hold on to your hats.