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Thursday, November 12, 2009


1980: Fredkin Prize

Edward Fredkin, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, offered $100,000 for the first computer program to beat a reigning world chess champion. The prize is won by the inventors of IBM’s Deep Blue chess machine in 1997, after its victory over Garry Kasparov. IBM boosts the jackpot for both sides, paying $700,000 to the Deep Blue Team and $400,000 to Kasparov.
From an article on the history & success of a number of such prizes.

I have mentioned the Fredkin Prize in passing before but decided to give it more attention.

This is the 1997 press release announcing it being won. It confirms "The prize was established at Carnegie Mellon 17 years ago by Computer Science Professor Edward Fredkin to encourage research in computer chess. A prize of $5,000 was awarded to the first chess program to attain a Master's rating in 1983. A prize of $10,000 was awarded to the system that achieved Grandmaster status in 1988...Feng H. Hsu, Murray Campbell and A. Joseph Hoane, Jr. will split the final, $100,000 award at a special chess pioneer recognition event ... The Fredkin Prize is being awarded under the auspices of AAAI. The funds have been held in trust at Carnegie Mellon University."

Converting $115,000 to today's money comes out at $362,000 (£220,000) which is not out of the range of even moderately wealthy donors.

Note that by Moore's Law that computer capacity doubles every 18 months such capacity is nearly a million times what it was when this prize was offered. Time for another...

Edward Fredkin (born 1934) is an early pioneer of digital physics. In recent work, he uses the term digital philosophy (DP). His primary contributions include his work on reversible computing and cellular automata. While Konrad Zuse's book, Calculating Space (1969), mentioned the importance of reversible computation, the Fredkin gate represented the essential breakthrough.

Edward Fredkin dropped out of Caltech after one year and, at age 19, joined the USAF where he became a jet fighter pilot. Fredkin’s computer career started in 1956 when the Air Force assigned him to work at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He worked at BBN in the early 1960s where he wrote the first PDP-1 assembler.

In 1968, Fredkin returned to academia, starting at MIT as a full professor. From 1971 to 1974 he was the Director of Project MAC. He spent a year at Caltech as a Fairchild Distinguished Scholar, working with Richard Feynman, and was a Professor of Physics at Boston University for 6 years. More recently, he has been a Distinguished Career Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and a Visiting Professor at MIT.

Fredkin founded Information International Inc. and has served as the CEO of a diverse set of companies ctd

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