Georgetown-IBM experiment

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The Georgetown-IBM experiment was an influential demonstration of machine translation, which was performed during January 7, 1954. Developed jointly by the Georgetown University and IBM, the experiment involved completely automatic translation of more than sixty Russian sentences into English.


Conceived and performed primarily in order to attract governmental and public interest and funding by showing the possibilities of machine translation, it was by no means a fully featured system: It had only six grammar rules and 250 items in its vocabulary. Apart from general topics, the system was specialised in the domain of organic chemistry. The translation was done using an IBM 701 mainframe computer.

Over 60 Romanized Russian statements regarding a wide range of political, legal, mathematic, and scientific subjects were entered into the machine by a computer operator who knew no Russian, and the resulting English translations appeared on a printer.

Translation Examples[edit]

Russian (Romanized) English translation
Mi pyeryedayem mislyi posryedstvom ryechyi. We transmit thoughts by means of speech.
Vyelyichyina ugla opryedyelyayetsya otnoshyenyiyem dlyini dugi k radyiusu. Magnitude of angle is determined by the relation of length of arc to radius.
Myezhdunarodnoye ponyimanyiye yavlyayetsya vazhnim faktorom v ryeshyenyiyi polyityichyeskix voprosov. International understanding constitutes an important factor in decision of political questions.


Well publicized by journalists and perceived as a success, the experiment did encourage governments to invest in computational linguistics. The authors claimed that within three or five years, machine translation could well be a solved problem. However, the real progress was much slower, and after the ALPAC report in 1966, which found that the ten years long research had failed to fulfill the expectations, funding was reduced dramatically.

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