Computers, History

And the Winner is…The Computer!

Twenty-five years ago today, on May 11, 1997. World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov was defeated by “Deep Blue,” an IBM computer developed as a research project at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University. (An RS/6000 running AIX.  Lord, that takes me back…)

The score, over six games, was 3 1/2 for Deep Blue, and 2 1/2 for Kasparov.  Kasparov, who was viewed by many as temperamental and difficult, didn’t take it well and demanded a rematch.  IBM refused.

The tournament is often seen as an early instance of an artificial intelligence (AI) engine successfully besting a human, but there’s been much discussion from both the “pro” and “con” sides ever since about whether the brute-force programming powering Deep Blue (which could evaluate 200 million possible chess positions per second) actually qualifies as AI, and whether or not it was actually “thinking.”

Still, it’s an interesting historical artifact, and a reminder of what a very brief blip, right at the end of our history to date, comprises the technological era.

PS: And Happy Birthday, Richard Feynman! He’d have been 104 years old today.


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