|“||More than iron, more than lead, more than gold I need electricity.
I need it more than I need lamb or pork or lettuce or cucumber.
I need it for my dreams.
—Racter, The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed
The name of the program is short for raconteur. The sophistication claimed for the program was likely exaggerated, as could be seen by investigation of the template system of text generation.
Racter was written by William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter. The existence of the program was revealed in 1983 in a book called The Policeman's Beard Is Half Constructed (ISBN 0-446-38051-2), which was described as being composed entirely by the program. According to Chamberlain's introduction to the book, the program apparently ran on a CP/M machine; it was written in "compiled BASIC on a Z80 micro with 64K of RAM." This version, the program that allegedly wrote the book, was not released to the general public.
However, in 1984 Mindscape, Inc. released an interactive version of Racter, developed by Inrac Corporation, for DOS, Amiga and Apple II computers. The published Racter was similar to a chatterbot. The BASIC program that was released by Mindscape was far less sophisticated than anything that could have written the fairly sophisticated prose of The Policeman's Beard. The commercial version of Racter could be likened to a computerized version of Mad Libs, the game in which you fill in the blanks in advance and then plug them into a text template to produce a surrealistic tale. The commercial program attempted to parse text inputs, identifying significant nouns and verbs, which it would then regurgitate to create "conversations," plugging the input from the user into phrase templates which it then combined, along with modules that conjugated English verbs.
By contrast, the text in The Policeman's Beard, apart from being edited from a large amount of output, would have been the product of Chamberlain's own specialized templates and modules, which were not included in the commercial release of the program.