Donald Mitchie at Edinburgh promised the moon with the conventional single
processor computer. Thus, he blocked advances in computer architecture.
I corresponded with him, and nobody, including the government. suckers
funding what he called 'Artificial Intelligence' (Al), which turned out
to be telling the difference between a cup and a saucer (I promise, on
my word of honour!) cared a bit when he failed to deliver two years later
what he had promised - getting a computer to detect the difference between
a cup and a saucer. They continued to admire his dynamic forward looking
work. For me, the primary effect was that advance beyond von Neumann was
blocked by programmers like Mitchie calling themselves 'Artificial Intelligence',
and saying that the processor would keep getting faster, so one processor
would always be enough. In the
Weekly I have published
blocked advances in computer architecture.
later, a government report said Al was a waste of time and the funding
was totally stopped. Around that time, a Walla called Prof. Aleksadner
of Brunel, later Imperial, tried to climb aboard my 'Catt Spiral' juggernaut,
because that was where the funding had migrated to. Later, his idea, praised
in the media, was for a computer to tell whether someone was smiling or
not. He called it Al. Like Mitchie, he gained a lot of media acclaim. So
later, a bunch of kids gave the term to another activity entirely, a more
reasonable activity, which was more like computers aiding the human, rather
than replacing him. (One is religion, the other is technology.) They gained
this time, a man with a quasi-religious attitude to hi-tec turned up named
Sinclair, and grabbed the Catt Spiral, ostensibly to make money and suchlike,
but his hidden agenda (like the one Nigel Cook is drifting towards now)
was to make a computer in the image of Man, the old Tower of Babel fixation.
While I welcomed Sinclair's support, I worried that he might come upon
my more forceful stuff against Al, perhaps in my books 'Computer Worship'.
At any moment during our very successful partnership, which lasted for
many years and brought innovative
to market with acclaim, he could have dismissed me as a heretic. After
all, religion is more important than business, as I found much earlier
in 1965 when another
Al freak, Dr. Narud, head of R&D in Motorola Phoenix, tried to fire me for heresy. He loved the 'hot box', which
was a box stuffed with chips and shaped like the human brain. You can see it
in the last chapter of the Motorola bible on IC design. Narud insisted that the
last chapter discuss neurons and include pictures of neurons. The Motorola bible
was later replaced by the Carver Mead Caltech bible, which contains a chapter
on 'The Glitch' at the insistence of Chuck Seitz. The Glitch had little relevance
to IC design either.