Talkback (Acornsoft) Review | Electron User - Everygamegoing

Electron User

By Acornsoft
Acorn Electron

Published in Electron User 3.01

Some while ago, when computers were things owned by rather strange people with more money than sense, I went to see a program called Eliza. It was almost the first program I can remember seeing, and it made a great impression on me.

It seemed that the computer could be spoken to through the keyboard, and that it actually answered back in an intelligent manner. Such programs are old hat now, but this cassette might be interesting for those keen on artificial intelligence, for it gives a marvellous insight into the way such a program is written.

The main menu allows several options, one of which is to load a character from tape. Two are provided, "Astro" and "Bomb", and fans of the film and book Dark Star will have the opportunity to convince the bomb to return to the docking bay...

The accompanying booklet gives quite detailed instructions on how to decide the characteristics of the other people, through the examples of "Helen" and "Ron". Creating or altering a characters is fairly straightforward once a little familiarity is gained.

Keywords - including short phrases - and responses can be entered or altered, so that fairly predictable conversations can be held, either between the two selected characters, or between the user and one of these.

The same keyword could provoke differing responses, but there is a priority system which decides which response should occur. Actually, I found the conversations themselves to be rather repetitive and bland, and I was much more interested in designing characters.

However, the booklet does include a rather amusing list of possible conversations, such as the one between a marriage guidance counsellor and King Henry VIII.

The average Electron owner will probably get fed up with the possibilities fairly quickly, but those with a particular interest in this area will find it most worthwhile. I can also see some value in computer studies lessons in schools.

Phil Tayler