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The frustration of teaching calculus at MIT


The hacker community
Marvin Minsky Scientist
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Most of them originally came from something called the Tech Model Railroad Club, which simulated a model railroad and… these were weird people… like they had an annual contest to see who could… who could in the shortest time ride every New York subway, which takes something like 36 hours or three days, I don’t know; but people would log these things very carefully and would study the schedules and plan their whole trip; and so these people were nuts. And so they were the first ones to use computers because they were automating their railroad; they didn’t have real computers, they made things that worked with relays. And somehow… they still can maintain that activity, but the really smart ones moved into my lab, and that’s where the LISP Language and other things like that started to develop, so all that started in 1958 or '59.

Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) was one of the pioneers of the field of Artificial Intelligence, founding the MIT AI lab in 1970. He also made many contributions to the fields of mathematics, cognitive psychology, robotics, optics and computational linguistics. Since the 1950s, he had been attempting to define and explain human cognition, the ideas of which can be found in his two books, The Emotion Machine and The Society of Mind. His many inventions include the first confocal scanning microscope, the first neural network simulator (SNARC) and the first LOGO 'turtle'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Lisp, New York

Duration: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: 29-31 Jan 2011

Date story went live: 09 May 2011