Chatbots Are Older Than You Think

Yep, you read that right. Chatbots are not quite as young as most of us might initially imagine. Can you guess when the idea for them first came to be?

It was in the 1950’s!

According to the Drift blog, it was in the 1950’s that Alan Turing lay the groundwork for the chatbot revolution by theorizing a machine that would be so intelligent in conversation that it would be indistinguishable from humans in text-based exchanges.

Quick History of Chatbots

That slowly led to the creation of the world’s first chatbot, ELIZA in 1966. Conversations with ELIZA were indeed convincingly human, and ELIZA herself was a psychotherapist that provided answers limited to that field. A few years later, in 1972, ELIZA had her first patient- another chatbot named PARRY. PARRY was a chatbot with paranoid schizophrenia.

It’s safe to say that at that point, though interesting, chatbots had yet to actually be cool. Enter the Jabberwacky chatbot in 1988 (publicly released in 1997). This bot was designed to “simulate natural human chat in an interesting, entertaining, and humorous manner.” This is where things really started to heat up, because Jabberwacky led to the creation of ALICE (Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity). ALICE is the chatbot that served as the inspiration behind the 2013 film Her, about a human that falls in love with a computer program he regularly talks to and seemingly develops a relationship with.

The latest iteration of chatbots fall under the “SmarterChild” approach, which refers to chatbots built for popular messaging platforms. Although there are already awesome chatbots out there for FB Messenger, we’re actually referring to the bots that reigned AIM and MSN Messenger in the early 2000’s.

Isn’t it amazing to see how far chatbots have come? They are now being used for many purposes, including eCommerce and customer service. Can you guess how many chatbots are in existence right now? Well, it’ll be tricky to come up with an accurate number, but to give you an idea… on FB Messenger alone, there are over 11K.