Output: An Anthology of Computer-Generated Text, 1953–2023, edited by Lillian Yvonne-Bertram and Nick Montfort

Purchase copies here, or write to counterpath@gmail.com.

An anthology of seven decades of English-language outputs from computer generation systems, chronicling the vast history of machine-written texts created long before ChatGPT.

The discussion of computer-generated text has recently reached a fever pitch, but largely omits the long history of work in this area—text generation, as it happens, was not invented yesterday in Silicon Valley. This anthology, Output, thoughtfully selected, introduced, and edited by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and Nick Montfort, aims to correct that omission by gathering seven decades of English-language texts produced by generation systems and software. The outputs span many different types of creative writing and include text generated by research systems, along with reports and utilitarian texts, representing many general advances and experiments in text generation.

Output is first and foremost a collection of outputs to be encountered by readers. In addition to an overall introduction, each of the excerpts is introduced individually and organized by fine-grain genre including conversations, humor, letters, poetry, prose, and sentences. Bibliographic references allow readers to learn more about outputs and systems that intrigue them. Although Output could serve as a reference book, it is designed to be readable and to be read. Purposefully excluded are human–computer collaborations that were conceptually defined but not implemented as a computer system.

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the author of Travesty Generator, a book of computational poetry that was longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award for Poetry, and several other poetry books. They direct the MFA in Creative Writing program at the University of Maryland.

Nick Montfort is a poet and artist who uses computation as his medium. He is the series editor of Counterpath’s Using Electricity series, and author of The Truelist and #!, both from Counterpath. His MIT Press publications range from The New Media Reader (coedited) and Twisty Little Passages to, most recently, The Future and the second edition of Exploratory Programming for the Arts and Humanities. He is Professor of Digital Media at MIT and Principal Investigator in the Center for Digital Narrative at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Output: An Anthology of Computer-Generated Text, 1953–2023
October 2024
co-published with MIT Press
edited by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and Nick Montfort
$40.00; 7″ x 9″
500 pgs.
ISBN 978-0262549813

Purchase copies here, or write to counterpath@gmail.com.