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Machine translation in 1968

The BBC recently published this excerpt from a 1968 edition of Tomorrow’s World featuring a computer system at Kyoto University that was not only able to translate simple sentences from Japanese to English, but could also read out the resulting Japanese text. #OnThisDay 1968: Tomorrow's World was in Japan, to test Kyoto University's extraordinary English to Japanese translator. What sorcery is this? pic.twitter.com/WTRHmgBmL2 — BBC Archive (@BBCArchive) August 14, 2018 It looks like the translation it performed was as follows: Input: MY NAME IS JOHN PARRY, AND I WORK IN LONDON ENGLAND. I HAVE COME TO KYOTO UNIVERSITY TO LOOK AT THE DIGITAL COMPUTER. Output (Romaji): WATASINO NAMAEWA JOHN PARRY DE ARU, SOSITE WATASHIWA LONDON ENGLAND NONAKANI HATARAKU. WATASHIWA DEJITARU KONPYUUTAAWO MIRUTAMENI KYOTO DAIGAKUE KIMASITA. Output (Kana): ワタシノナマエハ JOHN PARRY デアル、ソシテワタシワ LONDON ENGLAND ノナカニハタラク。ワタシハデジタル コンピューターヲミルタメニ KYOTO ダイガクヘキマシタ。 Apart from the use of dictionary-form verbs instead of the more polite “desu/masu” forms that one would expect from a human translator, the results aren’t bad at all. Very impressive for a computer that probably had less processing capability than a modern washing [More…]

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Tokyo Story

Every ten years since 1952, the British Film Institute (BFI) has polled film directors and critics to determine the greatest film of all time. In the recently published results of the 2012 survey, a Japanese film topped the directors’ poll, and ranked third in the critics’ poll. Tokyo Story (Tōkyō monogatari; 東京物語) was directed by Yasujirō Ozu (小津安二郎) in 1953. It features an elderly couple who travel to Tokyo to visit their grown-up children, but find them too preoccupied with their own lives to care for their parents. However, they are treated more warmly by their widowed daughter-in-law. Shot in Ozu’s characteristic style (low camera viewpoint, little or no camera movement), the film presents a thought-provoking and rather sad portrait of changing family values in post-war Japan. It is widely regarded as Ozu’s masterpiece. Do watch it if you get the chance. A  subtitled version of the film has been uploaded to YouTube, but I won’t embed it here as I’m not sure it’s all above board in terms of copyright (although the film would definitely be in the public domain by now had it been released in [More…]

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Header image: Dusk falls over the harbour at Takamatsu (高松市), as seen from the top floor of the 30-storey Symbol Tower. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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