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The Georgetown Experiment

The idea of machine translation was introduced to the general public on the 7th of January, 1954. The project was a collaboration between the University of Georgetown and IBM, who provided a model 701 to serve as the “brain” for the translation. The machine was fed over 60 relatively simple sentences in Russian and provided a fairly accurate English translation. Keep in mind that this experiment took place at a  time  when computers were just being introduced to the world and were frequently called “robots” or “giant brains,” so the results were astounding and in some circles, frightening.

Here is an example of one of the more general translations:

Russian: “Mi pyeryedayem mislyi posryedstvom ryechyi

English: “We transmit thoughts by means of speech”

So why did the scientists and linguists choose Russian into English? Perhaps this next example will make things a little clearer.

Russian:  “Dyinamyit pryigotovlyayetsya xyimyicheskyim protsyessom yiz
nyitroglyitsyeryina s pryimyesjyu yinyertnix soyedyinyenyiy

English: “Dynamite is prepared by chemical process from nitroglycerine with admixture of inert
compounds”

Cold War, here we come.

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