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Sources for AI Software

Sources for AI Software

In the field of Artificial Intelligence, the name Joseph S. Weintraub appears again and again, often in the context of his having won the Loebner prize for AI, conversational programs. The first such program, called ELIZA is a computerized counseling session with a robot. Joseph Weintraub didn't write the program. However, he took ELIZA to the next level and gave it a larger vocabulary and a better way to handle input from the user. He called his program "PC-Therapist" and entered it in the Loebner contest. He started working on his contest entry in 1986 and entered it in the 1991 competition. To win the $100,000 prize the AI program had to convince ten judges that they were communicating with a living person rather than a computer. Joseph won first place but not the full amount since his program only fooled five of the ten judges. He won first place in 1992 and 1993 but, again, the big money eluded him.

His one-person company, "Thinking Software," offered some of the best AI software for DOS-based PCs in the past ten years. Most recently "Thinking Software" has fallen on hard times and has gone out of business. Even though it's possible to find portions of the company's former Web site on Prodigy, the link to the home page is broken.

The best, current source for DOS based, Artificial Intelligence is a Web-based company called Mind Media. Its address is www.mindmedia.com. The company offers many older, DOS, AI programs that will run on the HP Palmtop. These programs sold for between $150 and $300 but are now sold for $15 each or $50 for a bundle of 5 programs. Mind Media is where I found copies of the PC-Therapist IV for DOS and PC Therapist V for Windows. Sad to say, neither version will run on the Palmtop. PCT4 will start on the Palmtop but quickly dies when it's called upon to display graphics. Apparently an EGA screen is required although this is not mentioned in the documentation.

A competing program to PC Therapist, called The Explorer, is also available from Mind Media. If you want to converse with your Palmtop about your feelings, problems and aspirations, Explorer will work but I don't promise any "break throughs" as a result of using it.

Other programs offered by Mind Media claim to help you brainstorm ideas (Brainstorm) and write term papers just by loading your research in the Palmtop and pressing a single key. (Autowriter). Both programs use a database search engine to pull sentences from text files and string the sentences together. Sorry, folks, this isn't what I would call "generating a report" or "brainstorming." However, if you become intrigued with the field of AI, Bruce Ehrlich at Mind Media is now the keeper of the flame for shareware and inexpensive software. If he doesn't list a program you're looking for, he may be able to find it in his off-line collection.

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