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Vint Cerf savours a life of Claude Shannon (nature.com)
93 points by Osiris30 on July 18, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments

It's a known fact that Shannon was fascinated by games as a means to study artificial intelligence. He also built many machines to play games. These machines are now in the care of the MIT museum. I compiled a list of his game machines in [1], though I need to fix the links to the pictures at the MIT museum.

[1]. https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/143233/claude-shannon-man...

One of the comments to the article you link to says:

"Claude Shannon was known as a strong chess player, and he was the first to not only propose that a computer could play Chess, but to also provide details on how that could be done. In his paper Programming a Computer for Playing Chess published in 1950, he describes how a computer could play chess using the minimax algorithm and a predesigned evaluation function. In so doing, he laid the foundation for virtually all abstract computer game programs used today."

But according to chronology in the Computers and Chess Wikipedia article, in 1948 "Norbert Wiener's book Cybernetics describes how a chess program could be developed using a depth-limited minimax search with an evaluation function."[1]

Even before that, in 1941, "Predating comparable work by at least a decade, Konrad Zuse develops computer chess algorithms in his Plankalkül programming formalism. Because of the circumstances of the Second World War, however, they were not published, and did not come to light, until the 1970s."

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computers_and_chess

I immediately thought of a nice picture in one of Edward Lasker's wonderful autobiographical chess books. Happily google image search retrieves it;


If I remember correctly, this relay based machine mates with king and rook versus bare king (significantly harder than king and queen versus bare king)

Thank you, great picture! Shannon's chess playing machine now resides at the MIT Museum. I was able to include MIT Museum links in the referenced BGG list. See MIT's page about the machine here:


For the record, I got my wires crossed - Shannon's chess machine played a variety of endgames. The king + rook versus king machine was another wonderful early contribution, from Spain much earlier in the 20th century; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Ajedrecista

Good catch. I changed the summary to state the Shannon was one of the first, and that he was preceded by Konrad Zuse and Norbert Wiener.

James Gleick has a good bit about Shannon in his book The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood.

One of my favorite books!

Another great book that includes information on Shannon and provides context to his work at Bell Labs is Gertner's Idea Factory.

Vint Cerf is a pretty interesting guy as well. Just found out he's responsible for saving Mac users from discoveryd. He got sick and tired of it causing problems, and called Tim Cook.

Interesting. Do you have a link for this?

This anecdote appears to have originated on a German podcast [1]

1: https://www.macwelt.de/news/Vint-Cerf-beschwerte-sich-bei-Co... (run your adblocker).

Excerpts from the book can be found at this IEEE Spectrum article [1]. Definitely an interesting book to read.

[1] "A Man in a Hurry: Claude Shannon’s New York Years" [ http://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/history/a-man-in-a-hurry-... ]

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