Technology: Beating the Language Barrier

"Computers don't like dealing with people," complained Air Force Scientist Charlton Walker last week. "They just don't understand our language." Walker's complaint was directed at the biggest remaining impediment to everyday use of computers: the fact that a skilled programmer must often spend days reducing the elements of a problem to numerical or electronic code before he can hold even a brief conversation with his machine. To remedy this, at least half a dozen U.S. corporations have been trying to develop a machine that can communicate in a speedier and simpler...

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