Simon Willison’s Weblog


Strachey love letter algorithm (via) This is a beautiful piece of computer history. In 1952, Christopher Strachey—a contemporary of Alan Turing—wrote a love letter generation program for a Manchester Mark 1 computer. It produced output like this:

"Darling Sweetheart,

You are my avid fellow feeling. My affection curiously clings to your passionate wish. My liking yearns for your heart. You are my wistful sympathy: my tender liking.

Yours beautifully

M. U. C."

The algorithm simply combined a small set of predefined sentence structures, filled in with random adjectives.

Wikipedia notes that "Strachey wrote about his interest in how “a rather simple trick” can produce an illusion that the computer is thinking, and that “these tricks can lead to quite unexpected and interesting results”.

LLMs, 1952 edition!