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Talk to Max Headroom

This month's lengthy listing is a bit different from anything we've ever printed before. It's unusual, witty and it has no practical use whatsoever. (Okay, so that last bit sounds a lot like most of the listings we print.)

The program's called GICO, which stands for that well-known computer saying, 'Garbage In, Garbage Out'. The name's very apt, though you may have to use the program for a while to see why.

Author is 15-year-old John Ablett, an O-level pupil at Horbury school, Wakefield, West Yorkshire. 'This program has already proved to be extremely popular with the computer-studies group at school,' he writes.

The idea of GIGO is to let you hold a conversation with a little Max Headroom character at the top of the screen. Max moves his lips as a message prints up on the screen. You then type in your reply, Max mouths his reply to your reply, and so on for as long as you're typing finger(s) can stand.

Max, being a computer-generated character, has a limited vocabulary. He only knows 102 different things to say including his standard start-up greeting, 'Hi! What do you want to talk about today?' However, this doesn't mean that he has to repeat himself. He'll learn your replies, and then throw them back at you when you least expect them.

Max isn't a very intelligent guy, I'm afraid, so the things he says don't always make much sense. The surprising thing is how often they do make sense, given that he just churns his phrases out at random. He can be very witty indeed, but this usually depends on the person he's talking to. Bear in mind, for the most part he's only repeating things you've typed in - so don't insult him or he'll soon start being rude to you in return.


The central idea of the listing is ingeniously simple. The various comments Max knows are stored in the array r$ (), and line 90 selects from them at random. When the chosen witticism is printed it's replaced in the array by the comment you've just entered. This means Max forgets each comment as soon as he says it, so he can't repeat himself unless you do. This replacement system is very simple to implement - line 90 does all the work here.

Although you do occasionally get your comments thrown back at you almost straightaway, you can find that Max still has some of his original phrases left after half an hour's conversation.


One obvious development you could make yourself would be to get Max talking through some form of speech synthesiser. I've half a mind to try that myself with Superior Software's Speech! if I can find the time. The relevant routine runs from line 330 onwards, and at present it just moves Max's lips. With a bit of work, you should be able to synchronise lips, printed text and the speech itself.

Other interesting projects might involve producing hard copy on a printer, or creating a 'save comments'feature so that you can store Max's array of phrases and continue your conversation with him some other time.

What I'd really like to see is a GIGO-like program that actually reacts to the things you say. It doesn't have to be very clever about this: the classic program of this type, ELIZA, simply watches out for particular key words and responds to them. You'll undoubtedly need a much more complex program, but the results can be very rewarding indeed. If you come up with anything good, by all means send it in we're always happy to have a chat with a reader's program!



AUTHOR: John Ablett


★ YEAR: 1986


» Gigo    ENGLISHDATE: 2013-08-30
DL: 98 fois
SIZE: 24Ko
NOTE: 40 Cyls

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L'alinéa 8 de l'article L122-5 du Code de la propriété intellectuelle explique que « Lorsque l'œuvre a été divulguée, l'auteur ne peut interdire la reproduction d'une œuvre et sa représentation effectuées à des fins de conservation ou destinées à préserver les conditions de sa consultation à des fins de recherche ou détudes privées par des particuliers, dans les locaux de l'établissement et sur des terminaux dédiés par des bibliothèques accessibles au public, par des musées ou par des services d'archives, sous réserve que ceux-ci ne recherchent aucun avantage économique ou commercial ». Pas de problème donc pour nous!

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L'Amstrad CPC est une machine 8 bits à base d'un Z80 à 4MHz. Le premier de la gamme fut le CPC 464 en 1984, équipé d'un lecteur de cassettes intégré il se plaçait en concurrent  du Commodore C64 beaucoup plus compliqué à utiliser et plus cher. Ce fut un réel succès et sorti cette même années le CPC 664 équipé d'un lecteur de disquettes trois pouces intégré. Sa vie fut de courte durée puisqu'en 1985 il fut remplacé par le CPC 6128 qui était plus compact, plus soigné et surtout qui avait 128Ko de RAM au lieu de 64Ko.