Christopher Strachey's Nineteen-Fifties Love Machine

The New Yorker

Overwrought love letters began turning up on the notice board at the University of Manchester's computer lab in August, 1953. Dripping with lustful vocabulary, they were all variations on a basic syntactic template: "YOU ARE MY [adjective] [noun]. And the signatory was always the same: "M.U.C.," for the Manchester University computer, a Ferranti Mark 1, the world's first general-purpose and commercially available machine of its kind. But the real author of the letters (in the first instance, anyway) was Christopher Strachey, a pioneering programmer. As he confessed in an article the following year, "There are many obvious imperfections in this scheme (indeed very little thought went into its devising), and the fact that the vocabulary was largely based on Roget's Thesaurus lends a very peculiar flavor to the results."