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DOS - 1984

Also available on: Mac - Amiga - Apple II

Alt name A conversation with Racter
Year 1984
Platform DOS
Released in United States
Genre Simulation
Theme Interactive Fiction, Meditative / Zen
Publisher Mindscape, Inc.
Developer Inrac Corporation
Dosbox support Supported on 0.61
4.25 / 5 - 12 votes

Description of Racter

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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. It's been long out of print, but if you are interested in what a computer-written book reads like, try placing an order on Amazon.

Review By HOTUD

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Comments and reviews

Ben 2023-08-13 0 point DOS version

I actually purchased this DOS program back in 1985. Racter can be entertaining, but some of the stuff that was on the screen from Racter's dialog was spooky at times.
I asked "Where are you?" and Racter replied "I'm in hell, and Hitler is here with me".
It does add to the dialog thing you tell Racter, in answer to questions. After you use it for awhile, it is amusing to have "conversations". this program just popped in my head while eating lunch and heard them talking about AI on TV.

Zizi 2023-02-27 0 point

It doesn't work on my pc. It says "Your pc can't execute this program" :(

Windestroy 2023-01-13 0 point DOS version

This bot Is good,the emulator keyboard is not correct
unless i download it.

mrcrab 2019-03-19 0 point DOS version

tried loading RACTER into DOSBOX. got as far the opening title of game, pop-up says FILE NOT FOUND AT ADDRESS 01AZ:0322. suggestions?

please 2018-03-01 0 point Amiga version

please consult the internet directory

tony 2015-05-15 0 point DOS version

there was a book of stories by racter....i bought it after seeing a conversation between eliza and racter which had me in tears

Lottie 2013-07-11 1 point DOS version

How about Elisa? Anyone here, more than me, that remember her??

A Wise Old Man 2013-02-19 0 point DOS version

This was a swipe of a mainframe program written in FORTRAN that went under numerous names like "PSYCH", "DOCTOR", "SHRINK" , etc.

CthulhuTheArmadillo 2012-06-18 0 point DOS version

Haha, I love this. Just type in "Tell me a story" for instant fun!

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