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Computer Programmer Creates Simulator In Which 'Digital
Monkeys' On Typewriters Create Shakespeare Prose

SHAKESPEARE GOES DIGITAL: In 2011 an American computer programmer created the monkey Shakespeare simulator, an algorhithm which gets millions of digital 'monkeys' busily typing sections from William Shakespeare's plays.

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The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “Monkeys typing Shakespeare” each month.

IN 2011, INSPIRED BY AN EPISODE of The Simpson's, a computer programmer created a simulator in which digital 'monkeys' randomly reproduced sections of the works of William Shakespeare. By Ben Arogundade.

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ON AUGUST 21, 2011, American computer programmer Jesse Anderson began a project to evaluate whether or not an infinite number of virtual “monkeys” typing on an infinite number of typewriters would accidentally produce the works of William Shakespeare.

MONKEY SHAKESPEARE SIMULATOR
Inspired by an episode of TV show The Simpsons, which spoofed the idea, Anderson’s monkey simulator consisted of millions of small computer programs linked to Amazon’s EC2 cloud server via his home PC. These programs constantly generated random sequences of text, each of which was nine characters long. Each sequence was checked against Shakespeare’s complete works to see if any of it actually replicated his prose. The sections that did were recorded, and the rest discarded. The possible number of variations with each nine-character sequence is complex. There are about 5.5 trillion in each set within the English language.

DIGITAL FAILURE
In the past, similar tests to Anderson’s typing monkey have not been successful. A 2003 experiment produced only one part of single line from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2, after the equivalent of billions of years of virtual monkey activity. So far, Anderson’s computerised primates have replicated one work — the poem, A Lover’s Complaint — but are said to be close to recreating Shakespeare's complete works.

But Dr Ian Steward, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University, questions whether it will happen at all. He contends that for the simulated monkeys to type Shakespeare’s complete works in the correct order, and without mistakes, would take much longer than the age of the universe. He told the BBC: “Along the way there would be untold numbers of attempts with one character wrong; even more with two wrong, and so on.”

Posting on his blog, Anderson quipped: “This is the largest work ever randomly reproduced. It is one small step for a monkey, one giant leap for virtual primates everywhere.”

The SHAKESPEARE MASHUP by Ben Arogundade is out now.

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