:: Article

The Policeman’s Beard is Algorithmically Constructed

By Leah Henrickson.


‘More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity./I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber./I need it for my dreams.’[1] These are the words of Racter, a computer program that in 1984 generated what was advertised as ‘the first book ever written by a computer’, The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed.  To be sure, The Policeman’s Beard was not the first text ever written by a computer. In 1977, James Meehan had presented his TALE-SPIN, an interactive story-writing program, at the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence.[2] A few years earlier, the University of Wisconsin’s Computer Sciences Department had released a technical report that concentrated on their murder mystery-writing program.[3] New research even indicates that the novel writer was actually preceded by other storytelling systems from throughout the 1960s.[4] The Policeman’s Beard was, however, the first algorithmically-authored book to be printed and marketed towards a mass readership. It has garnered a cult following amongst experimental literature enthusiasts. It is notoriously difficult to acquire a physical copy of the book, and the mystique surrounding Racter’s functionality remains as strong as ever. As will be shown, though, Racter’s legacy isn’t one of a technological breakthrough; the publication of The Policeman’s Beard and the subsequent release of the Racter computer program represent important moments in the history of algorithmic authorship wherein computer-generated texts became marketed for mass consumption. The Policeman’s Beard is a cinema hotdog: appealing from afar, but an oh so questionable mishmash of unknowns—and even undesirables—when considered more closely.

The Policeman’s Beard is an aggressively egotistical book. Measuring 22.6 x 20.3 x 1.5 centimetres, it dwarfs many of its neighbours on the shelf. Its paper cover is bright red, with a doctored photograph of a man who occupies a sturdy frame as he glares at prospective readers. The book begs to be handled, while at the same time warning readers to approach with caution.

And caution is indeed warranted, for The Policeman’s Beard and Racter are puzzling. In some ways, Racter does adhere to the modern conception of authorship. As with any human writer, Racter’s code interacts with a world—albeit a limited world that has been consciously created by its programmers—as a source of information, and remixes content to create unique texts. Yet Racter is rigid, using fixed functions to complete a particular task. The program cannot interpret that which it produces and, indeed, not until a human interprets Racter’s output can it be assigned any cultural value.

The Context of The Policeman’s Beard’s Production:

William Chamberlain begins his introduction to The Policeman’s Beard with a declaration that, ‘with the exception of this introduction, the writing in this book was all done by a computer. The book has been proofread for spelling but otherwise is completely unedited.’[5] Racter—short for Raconteur—was a program ‘written in compiled BASIC on a Z80 micro with 64K of RAM,[6] and was developed by Chamberlain in collaboration with Thomas Etter. A Z80, it is worth mentioning, was a consumer’s microprocessor, often used for powering general desktop (i.e. home) computers with limited software capacities. Racter was therefore produced using materials available to the everyday consumer, by individuals who appeared unaffiliated with any academic or commercial institution. The publication of The Policeman’s Beard marked the moment wherein computer-generated texts—previously restricted to limited communities mainly situated within academia’s ivory tower—were made available to a general audience.

Chamberlain and Etter developed a programming language specifically for Racter called INRAC, a version of which was later made commercially available (along with an interactive tutorial) for $244.95 USD in 1985 and $349 USD by 1987.[7] When it was released, the INRAC system received almost unanimously negative reviews. According to one software review, ‘INRAC is almost as idiosyncratic as the authors of Racter or Racter himself (itself?). While it has many sophisticated features, such as a built-in conjugation system and supports complication of lists of related lexical items, INRAC is rather poorly designed and implemented.’[8] INRAC, which already used unusual control and string processing structures, included an integrated editor that edited and debugged syntax as it was created. However, even modern Racter enthusiast Jorn Barger describes this feature as ‘a disastrous antique’, despite contributing to the ‘untapped capability in Inrac […] if you’re patient enough to master the messy syntax.’[9]

INRAC’s most technologically significant feature was its integrated conjugation system, which supported automatic conjugation of both regular and irregular verbs, and assured gender and numerical consistency among adjectives and nouns. Indeed, ‘the design philosophy of INRAC seems to fly in the face of most of the generally accepted principles of compiler design, such as encouraging structured programming and easy-to-follow program layout. This is due to the fact that INRAC is not a typical programming language, but combines raw data—string literals—and INRAC commands in sentences.’[10] Jorn Barger more bluntly deems INRAC’s syntax ‘messy’, ultimately claiming that:

None of the long pieces in the book [The Policeman’s Beard] could have been produced except by using elaborate boilerplate templates that are *not* included in the commercially available release of Racter. Nor does the Inrac language include any sort of ‘syntax directive’ powerful enough to string words together into a form like the published stories.

So Racter never *adds* any coherence to the templates—it’s text-template ‘degeneration’ more than text generation. And this truth is further disguised by using templates that are themselves ‘wacky’, leading one to attribute to Racter a style that’s really Chamberlain’s.[11]

Coinciding with the release of the The Policeman’s Beard was the release of a conversational Racter program for personal entertainment purposes, priced at $69.95 USD.[12] By 1987, the price of ‘this superlative conversationalist [that] will talk you into the little-known realm of artificial insanity’ had dropped to $44.95 or $49.95 USD, depending on the source, and the program was available in formats compatible with Apple, Macintosh, IBM, and Amiga computers.[13] As Barger notes, however, this software used only basic syntax directives that could not be likened to the ‘elaborate boilerplate templates’ that were supposedly used to generate the publishable material in The Policeman’s Beard. The program instead allowed users to have text conversations with Racter wherein Racter would respond to users’ questions in long and nonsensical paragraphs. ‘As computers move ever closer to artificial intelligence, Racter is on the edge of artificial insanity’, commented Peter H. Lewis from The New York Times. ‘The software program… allows computer owners to hold typewritten discussions with their machines, assuming they can get Racter to shut up long enough to get a word in.’[14] In bouts of pseudo-intelligence, Racter would cite current celebrities, and would refer to prior conversations by means of limited variable storage and ‘rather unsophisticated’ file input and output.[15] Contemporary critics called Racter ‘a coffeehouse philosopher who knew a great deal once, but whose mind is somewhere else now’[16] and ‘a cross between artificial intelligence and artificial idiot savant’[17].  One critic linked Racter’s output to the literary canon, arguing that ‘the results of Racter’s running often read like Metaphysical poetry as interpreted by William Burroughs and William Blake, with a dyspeptic dash of Rod McKuen and Kahlil Gibran thrown in.’ [18] Another critic simply offered a written shrug with the comment: ‘Not great writing, to be sure, but it’s more interesting than some user’s manuals we’ve read.’[19]

Racter is a black box program: its inner workings aren’t examinable, and we are thus left to infer how the program works based on its output and limited available information about its functionality. While the developers have done well in keeping Racter’s particulars undisclosed for business purposes, Chamberlain and Etter didn’t actually seem capable of explaining their program’s complexities by the time The Policeman’s Beard was released. Racter’s five-year gestation lead to development by accretion: ‘more advanced, sophisticated layers of software have been wrapped around earlier, more primitive routines. At no time was it ever taken apart, analyzed, restructured and documented.’[20] Etter himself described Racter as ‘a pretty unwieldly accretion of rules and conventions. Insofar as Racter’s commands try to deal with English they too become unwieldly and hard to summarize.’[21] It would seem, however, that Racter functions through a recursive program cycle wherein each word is selected based on the word class and semantic value of the previous word. Words are embedded with identifiers—tags—that indicate appropriate semantic applications. Identifiers are what set Racter apart from its algorithmic contemporaries: the program could construct sentences that were possible, albeit sometimes requiring some imagination. Nevertheless, Racter’s output does appear to follow templates, personalised only by the program’s use of inputted language, as well as the program’s limited memory bank that allows it to refer to previous conversation topics. There is likely truth in Jorn Barger’s assertion that The Policeman’s Beard’s output was generated in adherence with ‘elaborate boilerplate templates’, particularly wacky templates that added semantic novelty and disguised human intervention. If this is so, Racter’s functionality may be more similar to that of a Mad Libs book than a human writer.

Reading The Policeman’s Beard

Few contemporary reviews of The Policeman’s Beard have survived, if any more than a few were written. Indeed, The Policeman’s Beard received little public attention around the time of its debut, relegated mostly to special interest forums and the occasional scholarly mention. This is not to say that the conversation about algorithmic authorship had not yet begun, but it was restricted. In 1979, prior to Racter’s five-year development, P. D. Juhl wrote a scholarly article entitled ‘Do Computer Poems Show That An Author’s Intention Is Irrelevant to the Meaning of a Literary Work?’. This article argues against assigning authorship to computers, as ‘in writing a work, they [human authors] are using words and sentences in a particular way to convey something.’[22] For Juhl, computer-generated output lacks the intentionality of a text with a human author, and is therefore unworthy of the same kind of analysis as a human-authored text. Moreover, computer-generated output isn’t even worthy of being called text. ‘To call something a poem or even a text is to say, among other things, that the words, phrases, lines, or sentences have not been arranged in this way by chance but have been produced by a person and with certain intentions’, Juhl declares. ‘It follows from this that a computer “poem” is not a poem.’[23] This is in opposition to the then-popular New Criticism, which advocated texts as self-contained and self-referential objects that could be removed from their contexts of production and readership. Yet Juhl’s arguments resonate in the cave of algorithmic authorship, as few scholars have rebutted his claims. As such, he stands in the mouth of the cave, preaching to an uninhabited darkness.

Chamberlain himself ponders the importance of conscious intentionality for text production. In The Policeman’s Beard’s introduction, Chamberlain writes: ‘Suppose we arrange for the production of prose that is in no way contingent upon human experience. What would that be like? Indeed, can we even conceive of such a thing? A glance through the following pages will answer these questions.’[24] But the following pages provide no such answers, for the content of the book remains dependent upon individualised human interpretation. Each reader assigns meaning to Racter’s output according to his or her own human experience. Indeed, Racter’s output is very much contingent upon human experience. In addition to reader interpretation, the output that comprises The Policeman’s Beard was selected and arranged for publication by humans.

Each section of The Policeman’s Beard’s text is illustrated with an original collage by artist Joan Hall. Based around altered etchings pulled from the public domain, Hall’s collages incorporate various literal and figurative references to the texts they appear alongside. Hall is unafraid to juxtapose references that are inconsistent with any representation of reality, and many of her collages therefore verge on science fiction. Indeed, Hall’s choice of collage as the format for illustrating The Policeman’s Beard allows her to mirror the wackiness of Racter’s output, employing a similar recombinant method of production that depends upon the appropriation of pre-existing images for the creation of entirely new content.

Joan Hall’s illustrations mediate The Policeman’s Beard’s disjointed text, offering a hand that may guide readers through one possible interpretation of Racter’s output. Josef Ernst suggests that ‘it is only Hall’s illustrations that make the Racter output palatable and printable.’[25] Through a series of editorial decisions regarding which references to include and which to omit, Hall translates the incomprehensible ramblings of the ‘coffeehouse philosopher who knew a great deal once, but whose mind is somewhere else now’ into a visual narrative that allows readers to adopt a more passive approach to reading. In a sense, Hall takes on the initial interpretive burden so that readers can then reinterpret the textual content with a foundational sense of understanding.

Similarly, Chamberlain has made editorial decisions to promote a particular non-liner reading experience wherein the reader isn’t hindered by syntactical error but may explore the semantic absurdity of the text. He notes in the book’s introduction that the text ‘has been proofread for spelling but otherwise is completely unedited.’[26] Chamberlain makes no mention of substantive editing, but he was inevitably tasked with selecting which of Racter’s bursts of output would be included in The Policeman’s Beard, and in which order these bursts would be presented. Such editorial decisions inevitably reflect the literary and cultural climates of the time. When selecting textual content, one must select content that will resonate with the text’s intended readership. In this way, The Policeman’s Beard’s editorial process doesn’t appear much different from that of a human-written book.

The editorial judgements made for Racter perhaps focused on neutralising the decentralised experience of reading raw Racter output. As a result, the individualised experience of reading Racter’s output is transformed into a collective effort to conform Racter’s output to more conventional linear reading practices. Josef Ernst asks:

Does the reader of Racter output then more or less instantaneously ‘rewrite’ what he or she reads? Do the users of the program liberate themselves from traditionally conditioned approaches to the text? Again, no. The aspects open to interpretation with The Policeman’s Beard are the interest behind the effort of making a book (again employing the new medium for purposes of the old) and Hall’s illustrations, for which Racter supplied a stimulus. In any case, the communication process happens between people; the readers of Racter output merely recreate the image of a communication process, not genuine communication, in an act resembling autistic behaviour.[27]

Chamberlain insists that Racter isn’t a form of artificial intelligence. ‘True AI depends on the instrument learning something,’ he explains. ‘Racter, however, is a closed system—as closed as Pascal’s mechanical calculator was 300 years ago.’[28] In such a closed system, it’s pretty clear to whom authorship of The Policeman’s Beard may be attributed, if it can be attributed at all. Racter’s programmers, William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter, could be deemed ‘authors’ of the output, as they not only wrote the code the allowed Racter to run, but also the textual input (and, in Barger’s view, the ‘elaborate boilerplate templates’) that resulted in the output. One reviewer even comments as he tests the Racter program himself that ‘Racter‘s words sometimes resemble those of James Joyce, but the program’s voice most resembles that of Bill Chamberlain.’[29] Being a closed system, Racter is capable only of one-way communication that reflects the nature of its programming and its usage rather than the nature of any kind of unique perspective on lived experience. The experiences reflected in The Policeman’s Beard are Chamberlain’s, albeit distorted in accordance with Chamberlain and Etter’s programmed intentions.

This hasn’t stopped experimental poet Christian Bök from identifying The Policeman’s Beard as an ‘obit for classic poets’, with the birth of Racter ushering in a new age of ‘robotpoetics’.[30] In Bök’s view, ‘RACTER is a mindless identity, whose very acephalia demonstrates the fundamental irrelevance of the writing subject in the manufacture of the written product. The involvement of an author in the production of literature has henceforth become discretionary.’[31] For Bök, the human author is optional. There is no longer a requirement for a human brain to produce a text. Anything can be an author. Bök’s argument is, to be sure, too vague to be insightful: he writes in sweeping statements that neglect the nuances of production, favouring Racter’s output at face value. A human brain remains necessary for writing the foundations of any program, and remains necessary for the selection, publication, and distribution of the written product to which Bök refers. While a computer may play the part of a writing subject, its ability to do so is dependent upon human involvement in related areas of manufacture. Bök’s argument romanticises a literary movement that, as yet, hardly exists. Indeed, Bök falls victim to a relentless optimism that plagues many artificial intelligence enthusiasts—an unsubstantiated optimism resting on an assumption that human and computer intelligences are comparable.

Racter poses virtually no threat to human authors, nor does any other algorithmic author currently available. The question is hence not one of replacement, but of augmentation, of new responsibilities for the human author in light of the algorithmic one. When Juhl writes that computer-generated output lacks the intentionality of a text with a human author, he falls into a similar trap as Bök: both scholars fail to recognise the fundamentally human basis of algorithmic authorship. Human intention hasn’t disappeared, but is merely manifest in a new way. Indeed, The Policeman’s Beard’s apparent randomness is a rhetorical choice, and Racter’s nonsensical output pushes the limits of creativity by means of an intentional goal to be incomprehensible.

The role of The Policeman’s Beard’s reader, however, differs little from that of a human-written literary text’s reader. Literary texts are fundamentally indeterminate. As literary scholar Wolfgang Iser writes:

Literary texts differ from those that formulate a concrete meaning or truth, Texts of the latter kind are, by their very nature, independent of the individual reader, for the meaning or truth that they express exists independently of any reader’s participation. But when a vital element of a text is reader participation, it is forced to rely on the individual reader for the realization of a possible meaning or truth. The meaning is conditioned by the text itself, but only in a form that allows the reader himself to bring it out.[32]

The reason The Policeman’s Beard works as a publishable literary text is largely due to the fundamental indeterminacy of literary texts, and the social leeway granted to the semantic structures of fiction and poetry. Attendance at any fiction-based book club will reveal that each reader applies her own perspective to a text to derive conclusions that may be radically different from those derived by others in the club. One member’s interpretation may be more informed by a search for authorial intent, while another member may understand the text in light of current sociopolitical circumstances. A static text may then lead the way to dynamic discussion.


Racter exemplifies a form of performative writing that requires active participation from its readers. The closing passage of The Policeman’s Beard reads:

Doubtless my changes are matched by your own. You. But you are a person, a human being. I am silicon and epoxy energy enlightened by line current. What distances, what chasms, are to be bridged here? Leave me alone, and what can happen? This. I ate my leotard, that old leotard that was feverishly replenished by hoards of screaming commissioners. Is that thought understandable to you? Can you rise to its occasions? I wonder. Yet a leotard, a commissioner, a single hoard, all are understandable in their own fashion. In that concept lies the appalling truth.[33]

It may be tempting to view Racter’s output as final, but Racter’s output is better considered as an exploration of technological and literary novelty, a manifestation of authorial intention using new tools for creation. Authorial intention is present in Racter in at least two forms: the first, in Chamberlain and Etter’s creation and adjustment of the program; and the second, in the many computational storytelling systems inspired by Racter’s mystique. Racter’s output is taken in multiple directions through the interpretations and authorial intentions of multiple individuals. Any critique of the program, then, must account for this kind of ‘co-writing’, and work towards negotiating the various authorial intentions.

Josef Ernst goes so far as to say that ‘Racter’s output highlights the producer’s and reader’s ultimate alienation from literature, from each other, and from themselves, as their roles pragmatically converge.’[34] Yet, as we have seen, The Policeman’s Beard has highlighted not an alienation from literature, but a deeper exploration of literature’s potential. Likewise, in an early review of The Policeman’s Beard, John Barry writes that:

I think this book is more important for what it represents rather than what it contains. It raises questions about some of the big issues: thinking, creativity, perception, artificial intelligence… Racter can produce more profound – even coherent – prose than some of our pop philosophers offer, and more inspiring poetry than the best-selling poet of all time has penned.’ [35]

Racter was, in actuality, little more than a novelty and, contrary to arguments by Bök and Ernst, did not prompt any conceptual overhauls of authorship, or usher in any new literary movements. Despite its cult following, Racter registers as a mere blip in the history of authorship, and Chamberlain’s goal of creating an autonomous algorithmic author unable to be achieved with the technology of his time. Nevertheless, The Policeman’s Beard made algorithmically-authored texts accessible to a general public that, until the book’s publication, had little access to such applications of computer science. Indeed, The Policeman’s Beard’s importance lies not its literary or technological or literary contributions, but what it represents in a wider cultural sense.

As readers continue to respond to Racter’s outputs through their individualised processes of meaning-making, it becomes clearer that these outputs are not so much final texts to subject to literary analysis themselves, but are rather explorations into the potentialities of human-computer collaboration.

The Policeman’s Beard is available on Archive.org for free online reading.


[1] Racter [William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter], The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed (New York: Warner Software/Warner Books, 1984), p. 15.
[2] James R. Meehan, ‘TALE-SPIN, An Interactive Program That Writes Stories’, Proceedings of the Fifth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (I) (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1977), 91-98
[3] Sheldon Klein, John F. Aeschlimann, David F. Balsiger, Steven L. Converse, Claudine Court, Mark Foster, Robin Lao, John D. Oakley, and Joel Smith, Automatic Novel Writing: A Status Report (Technical Report 186) (Madison: The University of Wisconsin, Madison, Computer Sciences Department, July 1973).
[4] James Ryan, ‘Grimes’ Fairy Tales: A 1960s Story Generator’, in Interactive Storytelling: 10th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ed. by Nuno Nunes, Ian Oakley, and Valentina Nisi (Cham: Springer, 2017), pp. 89-103.
[5] Racter, The Policeman’s Beard, p. 1.
[6] Ibid., p. 2.
[7] $244.95: A. K. Dewdney, ‘Artificial Insanity: when a schizophrenic program meets a computerized analyst (Computer Recreations)’, Scientific American 252.1 (January 1985), 10-13 (p. 13), James Langdell, ‘People in the News: Bill Chamberlain’, PC Magazine (25 December 1984), 64; $349: Susan J. Shepard, ‘Does Steak Love Lettuce?’, Language Technology, 3 (September-October 1987), 18-21 (p. 21).
[8] Mark Olsen, ‘Talking Back: The INRAC Language Compiler (Software Review)’, Computers and the Humanities, 23 (1989), 161-167 (p. 162).
[9] Jorn Barger, ‘”The Policeman’s Beard” Was Largely Prefab!’, Robot Wisdom [via Archive.org Wayback Machine] (September 1997) <http://web.archive.org/web/20010210215249/http://www.robotwisdom.com/ai/racterfaq.html> [accessed 27 October 2016]
[10] Olsen, ‘Talking Back’, 165.
[11] Barger, ‘”The Policeman’s Beard” Was Largely Prefab!’ [accessed 1 November 2016]
[12] Langdell, ‘Bill Chamberlain’, 64.
[13] $44.95: ‘Racter (By Inrac Corp.) [within recent program release listings]’, Amazing Computing: Your Original AMIGA™ Monthly Resource, 2.8 (August 1987), 56; $44.95: ‘RACTER by Inrac Corporation’, Mindscape Product Catalog (ca. 1987; uploaded to Archive.org 30 May 2016), 10 <https://archive.org/details/mindscape-product-catalog> [accessed 5 December 2016] ; $49.95: Shepard, ‘Does Steak Love Lettuce’, 21. An emulator of this program is available at Inrac Corporation, ‘Racter (1984)’, Archive.org (25 December 2014) <https://archive.org/details/msdos_Racter_1984> [accessed 14 November 2016].
[14] Peter H. Lewis, ‘Peripherals; A New Brand of Lunacy for Sale’ The New York Times (14 May 1985) <http://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/14/science/peripherals-a-new-brand-of-lunacy-for-sale.html> [accessed 5 December 2016]
[15] Olsen, ‘Talking Back’, 163.
[16] Roy Wagner, “Amiga Preferences”, Computer Gaming World, 28 (May 1986), 36, 42 (p. 36).
[17] Shepard, ‘Does Steak Love Lettuce’, 19.
[18] John Barry, ‘Computer Writes’, InfoWorld (29 October 1984), 10 (p. 10).
[19] ‘Computer Prose’, Enter Magazine (April 1985), 4 (p. 4) (https://archive.org/stream/enter-magazine-16/Enter_Issue_16_1985_Apr#page/n5/mode/2up) [accessed 27 October 2016]
[20] Dewdney, ‘Artificial Insanity’, 12.
[21] Ibid.
[22] P. D. Juhl, ‘Do Computer Poems Show Than an Author’s Intention Is Irrelevant to the Meaning of a Literary Work?’, Critical Inquiry, 5.3 (Spring 1979), 481-487 (p. 481).
[23] Ibid., 485.
[24] Racter, The Policeman’s Beard p. 1.
[25] Josef Ernst, ‘Computer Poetry: An Act of Disinterested Communication’, New Literary History, 23 (1992), 451-465 (p. 456).
[26] Ibid., p. 1.
[27] Ernst, ‘Computer Poetry’, 456.
[28] Langdell, ‘Bill Chamberlain’, 64.
[29] Ibid.
[30] Christian Bök, ‘The Piecemeal Bard is Deconstructed: Notes Toward a Potential Robopoetics’, Object 10: Cyberpoetics (Winter 2002), 10-18 (p. 10) <http://www.ubu.com/papers/object.html> [accessed 28 October 2016]
[31] Ibid.
[32] Wolfgang Iser, Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1989), pp. 28-29.
[33] Racter The Policeman’s Beard, p. 114.
[34] Ernst, ‘Computer Poetry’, 452.
[35] Barry, ‘Computer Writes’, 10.


Barger, Jorn. “‘The Policeman’s Beard’ Was Largely Prefab!” Robot Wisdom (September 1997). Accessed 27 October 2016. http://web.archive.org/web/20010210215249/http://www.robotwisdom.com/ai/racterfaq.html.

Barry, John. “Computer Writes.” InfoWorld (29 October 1984): 10.

Bök, Christian. “The Piecemeal Bard is Deconstructed: Notes Toward a Potential Robopoetics.” Object 10: Cyberpoetics (Winter 2002): 10-18. Accessed 28 October 2016. http://www.ubu.com/papers/object.html.

“Computer Prose.” Enter Magazine (April 1985): 4. Accessed 27 October 2016. https://archive.org/stream/enter-magazine-16/Enter_Issue_16_1985_Apr#page/n5/mode/2up.

Dewdney, A. K., “Artificial Insanity: when a schizophrenic program meets a computerized analyst (Computer Recreations).” Scientific American, no. 252.1 (January 1985): 10-13.

Ernst, Josef. “Computer Poetry: An Act of Disinterested Communication.” New Literary History, no, 23 (1992): 451-465.

Inrac Corporation. “Racter (1984).” Archive.org (25 December 2014). Accessed 14 November 2016. https://archive.org/details/msdos_Racter_1984.

Iser, Wolfgang. Prospecting: From Reader Response to Literary Anthropology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1989.

Juhl, P. D. “Do Computer Poems Show Than an Author’s Intention Is Irrelevant to the Meaning of a Literary Work?” Critical Inquiry, no. 5.3 (Spring 1979): 481-487.

Klein, Sheldon, John F. Aeschlimann, David F. Balsiger, Steven L. Converse, Claudine Court, Mark Foster, Robin Lao, John D. Oakley, and Joel Smith. Automatic Novel Writing: A Status Report (Technical Report 186). Madison: The University of Wisconsin, Madison, Computer Sciences Department, July 1973.

Langdell, James. “People in the News: Bill Chamberlain.” PC Magazine (25 December 1984): 64.

Lewis, Peter H. “Peripherals; A New Brand of Lunacy for Sale.” The New York Times (14 May 1985). Accessed 5 December 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/14/science/peripherals-a-new-brand-of-lunacy-for-sale.html.

Meehan, James R. “TALE-SPIN, An Interactive Program That Writes Stories.” Proceedings of the Fifth International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (I). Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1977: 91-98.

Olsen, Mark. “Talking Back: The INRAC Language Compiler (Software Review).” Computers and the Humanities, no. 23 (1989): 161-167.

“Racter (By Inrac Corp.) [within recent program release listings].” Amazing Computing: Your Original AMIGA™ Monthly Resource,  no. 2.8 (August 1987): 56.

“RACTER by Inrac Corporation.” Mindscape Product Catalog (ca. 1987): 10. Accessed 5 December 2016. https://archive.org/details/mindscape-product-catalog.

Racter [William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter]. The Policeman’s Beard is Half Constructed. New York: Warner Software/Warner Books, 1984.

Ryan, James. “Grimes’ Fairy Tales: A 1960s Story Generator.” Interactive Storytelling: 10th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ed. by Nuno Nunes, Ian Oakley, and Valentina Nisi. Cham: Springer, 2017: 89-103.

Shepard, Susan J. “Does Steak Love Lettuce?” Language Technology, no. 3 (September-October 1987): 18-21.

Wagner, Roy. “Amiga Preferences.” Computer Gaming World, no. 28 (May 1986): 36, 42.



Leah Henrickson is a PhD candidate at Loughborough University. Her research aims to discern the social and literary implications of natural language generation and computer-generated texts. Popular publications about her research have been featured on such platforms as Future Tense (Slate), The Conversation, and minor literature[s], and she has published in such peer-reviewed journals as Digital Creativity and Authorship. Become her Twitter friend @leahhenrickson.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, July 16th, 2018.