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"I kind of take it for granted that our great-grandchildren will regard us as a sort of precursor species. That they won't think of us as human and if we could see them, we probably wouldn't think of them as human either."
- William Gibson

Verse Transcriber  
  A device that would produce perfect poetry, given the necessary parameters.  

Do you write poetry? I mean, yourself. Given the necessary technology, you can put your feet up and watch TV, and let your trusty IBM unit do the work.

"Do you mean she wrote these herself?"

I nodded. "It has been done that way. In fact the method enjoyed quite a vogue for twenty or thirty centuries. Shakespeare tried it, Milton, Keats and Shelley - it worked reasonably well for them."

"But not now," Tony said. "Not since the VT set. How can you compete with an IBM heavy-duty logomatic analogue?"

"...Hold on," I told him. I was pasting down one of Xero's satirical pastiches of Rubert Brooke and was six lines short. I handed Tony the master tape and he played it into the IBM, set the meter, rhyme scheme, verbal pairs, and then switched on, waited for the tape to chunter out of the delivery head, tore off six lines and passed them back to me. I didn't even need to read them.

For the next two hours we worked hard, at dusk had completed over 1,000 lines and broke off for a well-earned drink.

From Studio 5, The Stars, by J.G. Ballard.
Published by Berkeley Medallion in 1971
Additional resources -

It's not like IBM had a monopoly on poetry machines; there was also the Philco Versomatic.

Most computer science students write at least one program that generates verbiage on command. A good example of a computer program that writes poetry is Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet. As you can tell by the name, it's been around for a while; he wrote the first one in the mid-1980's.

Here's how it works:

RKCP reads a selection of poems by a particular author or authors and then creates a "language model" of that authorís work. The language model incorporates computer-based language analysis and mathematical modeling techniques. RKCP can then write original poems from that model. The poems have a similar style to the author(s) originally analyzed, but are completely original new poetry.
Here's a sample haiku written in the style of Kathleen Frances Wheeler:
Crazy moon child
Hide from your coffin
To spite your doom.
Read more about Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet (RKCP).

Compare to the electronic bard by Stanislaw Lem.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Studio 5, The Stars
  More Ideas and Technology by J.G. Ballard
  Tech news articles related to Studio 5, The Stars
  Tech news articles related to works by J.G. Ballard

Verse Transcriber-related news articles:
  - 200,000 Computer-Generated Books
  - Computer 'Aesop' Writes Fables With A Moral
  - Scheherazade, An Open Story Generator

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