Technology: Trying To Decipher Babel

Japanese translating machines make languages less foreign

The machine clearly does not like poetry. It won't touch the stuff. Nor is it very fond of novels. Theoretically, it could cope with some of Hemingway's short, simple sentences, though it could never make anything of long, convoluted passages from Faulkner. But give the Toshiba AS-TRANSAC computer a thoroughly dull, straightforward instruction manual, and it will earnestly chomp its way through page after page. What it does with those pages is the amazing part. The Toshiba machine has linguistic ability far beyond the powers of past generations of computers: it can translate, at least crudely, one language into another. In...

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