In 9th grade, I was taking French, and we had to do some kind of project, it was kind of like a science fair, except French and sans science.

So what I decided to do for my project was translate that old Eliza program into French.

I had the thing running on a TI-99/4A with Extended BASIC, and I had the voice synthesizer module that I borrowed from a friend. So I translated all that junk into French, phonetically spelled French at that, and for all the rules for English that didn't fit into French, I made new ones for whatever the French equivalent was.

You see, the secret of how Eliza works is basically this: It scans what you type to it, looking for pronouns and common verbs, and turns them around so that "I" becomes "you", and "you" becomes "i", and "are" becomes "am", etc. So if you type "You are a dork", it can come back with something like "What makes you think I am a dork?" and seem almost intelligent to someone who's not in on the trick. There's more to it than just that, there are a lot of little tricks like that built into the program, but that's the jist of it.

Well, this thing kind of blew the teacher's mind. You have to realize, this was 1983, so hardly anybody knew anything about computers, and here was a computer that seemed capable of carrying on a sort of conversation in French.

The best part though was when I loaded up the English version. Because suddenly everyone could actually understand what the thing is saying. Within minutes there were probably a hundred people gathered around my stupid little TI-99/4A all yelling and telling me what to type. I'd type it in, then everybody would be real quiet so they could hear what it had to say.

Naturally being mostly high school kids, they'd say "Tell it to fuck off!" And, knowing something about how the program worked, I would type in something that I knew would get a good reaction from the program..."I think you should fuck off".

And it would come back, in that goofy synthesized voice, with something along these lines:

"Do you think I should fuck off because you would like to be able to fuck off?"

People were ROFL without even knowing what ROFL was.

At that time, computer generated speech was still relatively new, and hooking it up with something like stupid old Eliza just killed. I suppose nowadays a project like that would probably get yawns.