RACTER | Futility Closet

Written in BASIC, RACTER (short for “raconteur”) ran on 64K of RAM. Its output, which strung together individual words according to programmed structures and rules of composition, was largely gibberish, but it could produce startling flashes of apparent lucidity:

“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.”

And even the gibberish could be deep. RACTER’s first published work, Soft Ions, appeared in OMNI in November 1981. Its conclusion included some apparent nonsense about eating a leotard that was replenished by hordes of commissioners. But then the program reflected:

“Is that thought understandable to you? … I wonder. Yet a leotard, a commissioner, a single horde, all are understandable in their own fashion. In that concept lies the appalling truth.”