From the Racter FAQ:
In 1984, William Chamberlain published a book called "The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed" (Warner Books, NY. 0-446-38051-2, paper $9.95). The introduction claims: "With the exception of this introduction, the writing in this book was all done by computer."
The authorship is attributed to RACTER, originally "written in compiled BASIC on a Z80 with 64k of RAM."
Racter strings together words according to "syntax directives", and the illusion of coherence is increased by repeated re-use of text variables. This gives the appearance that Racter can actually have a conversation with the user that makes some sense, unlike Eliza
, which just spits back what you type at it. Of course, such a program has not been written to perfection yet, but Racter comes somewhat close.
Since some of the syntactical mistakes that Racter tends to make cannot be avoided, the decision was made to market the game in a humorous vein, which the marketing department at Mindscape
dubbed "tongue-in-chip software" and "artificial insanity".
- "A conversation with Racter" -- Dos in-game title
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Racter was published under Mindscape's "ALERT: Software that challenges the mind." advertising moniker.
The packaging, a shrinkwrapped plastic binder (and not a box, which was fairly common back then), contained a (fake) brochure describing the Institute of Artificial Insanity, offering "flexible degree-granting programs and vinyl tubing to students." The Institute also prided itself on its "excellence, as evidenced by its complete catalog of curricular and sportswear items, its students, and its loss of faculties." It goes on to list the curriculum and other moderly humorous details about the Institute.
Along that vein, a second piece of material was included in the Racter package: An order form to order tee-shirts and sweatshirts with the Institute's seal on it. This latter order form wasn't
a joke--it was a legitimate offer from Mindscape. The pricing was as follows:
T-Shirt (Racter logo): $8.00
Bumper Sticker: $1.50
Decal for car window: $1.50
These items are extremely rare and are of high personal value to classic software collectors.