Racter Download (1984 Adventure Game)

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A more demented version of the conversation program Eliza, Racter would have been called "Raconteur" -- one who excels at storytelling -- if not for the early IBM's lack of long filenames. Racter simulates a conversation with an eccentric individual. In a typical session Racter asks you questions about what you're afraid of, and then asks why you're such a coward. Then it asks you whether you'd like to hear one of its randomly-generated stories. Typical output:

"Phil sang of a hawk during the time that Diane was singing of a jackal. Are you interested? Their yellow mansion actually was fascinatingly interesting, their frightening fantasies were aloof. Momentarily Diane whispers. 'My jackal will chew your hawk, Phil. This infuriated jackal, numberless angry jackals can dream about a hawk then, nervously eat the hawk. Instantly a jackal may chew lamb nevertheless within my expectations I watch an image of unending passion in an enrapturing white light-tube or glass. A jackal is hungry.' 'Well spoke', yodeled Diane. 'By the same token my hawk can wing and fly. Are these your views?' "

Racter is still the subject of some controversy. The creators published a book of short stories and poetry, The Policeman's Beard is Half-Constructed, supposedly written by Racter. But some computer scientists have claimed Racter could not possibly create such sophisticated work, at least not without serious human tinkering.


In 1984, William Chamberlain published a book called "The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed" (Warner Books, NY. 0-446-38051-2, paper $9.95). The introduction claims: "With the exception of this introduction, the writing in this book was all done by computer."

The authorship is attributed to RACTER, originally "written in compiled BASIC on a Z80 with 64k of RAM."

Racter strings together words according to "syntax directives", and the illusion of coherence is increased by repeated re-use of text variables. This gives the appearance that Racter can actually have a conversation with the user that makes some sense, unlike Eliza, which just spits back what you type at it. Of course, such a program has not been written to perfection yet, but Racter comes somewhat close.

Since some of the syntactical mistakes that Racter tends to make cannot be avoided, the decision was made to market the game in a humorous vein, which the marketing department at Mindscape dubbed "tongue-in-chip software" and "artificial insanity".


Not really an interactive fiction game but rather one of the most intriguing piece of software ever created, Racter is one of the earliest commercial releases of computer intelligence-- AI gibberish, so to speak, but interesting nonetheless. The program is a more fully developed version of Eliza, a psychologist-cum-machine program that was popular in the early days of PC computing. Similarly, anyone who has played around with Dr. Sbaitso, the talking parrot program shipped with the first SoundBlaster card will be on familiar ground: Racter is basically a computer personality that communicates via a text parser.

So how does Racter create the illusion of intelligence? MobyGames description tell it all: "Racter strings together words according to "syntax directives", and the illusion of coherence is increased by repeated re-use of text variables. This gives the appearance that Racter can actually have a conversation with the user that makes some sense, unlike Eliza, which just spits back what you type at it. Of course, such a program has not been written to perfection yet, but Racter comes somewhat close. Since some of the syntactical mistakes that Racter tends to make cannot be avoided, the decision was made to market the game in a humorous vein, which the marketing department at Mindscape dubbed "tongue-in-chip software" and "artificial insanity". Not a true "AI" by any stretch of the word, but a unique program that is well worth a look as an indication of where the field of artificial intelligence was heading in 1984. According to the Racter FAQ, co-designer William Chamberlain even released a book called "The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed" (Warner Books, NY. 0-446-38051-2, paper $9.95) before the release of the program, the authorship of which he attributed solely to Racter.


How to run this game on modern Windows PC?

This game has been set up to work on modern Windows (10/8/7/Vista/XP 64/32-bit) computers without problems. Please choose Download - Easy Setup (1.39 MB).

 

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