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July 13, 1983 – The IRA And Debate On The Death Penalty – Chanting In The Streets Of Santiago – A Computer That (Sort Of) Talks And Understands.

Santiago, Chile - Protests
Santiago – drumbeats for the ouster of Pinochet grew louder by the minute.
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July 13, 1983 – Busy day as news goes. Starting with word on a bombing in Northern Ireland, taking the lives of four British Soldiers when the vehicle they were riding in struck a landmine. The attack comes while Parliament was debating the Death Penalty and whether it should be reinstated, since the last time it was used was in 1965. Observers noted the timing on the attack in Northern Ireland could have been retalitation for the possible reinstatement of the Death Penalty. Either way, four soldiers were dead and the Irish Republican Army was taking credit.

Meanwhile, the streets of Santiago were echoing with the chants of protestors, demonstrating against the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Despite a strict government curfew, demonstrations took place. A nineteen year-old woman was allegedly shot and killed by Chilean troops as the protests grew in intensity through the night. The cold hard fact that everyone in Chile understood; while the demonstrations in Santiago and other towns could in fact have some effect in the long run, in the short run what mattered was who had the power. And on this day the power rested with Augusto Pinochet who had the backing of the military – but for how long, was anybody’s guess. Many were starting to ask the question; as long as the Military supported Pinochet, his rule would survive – but when was the Military going to turn on him? Only time would tell for that one, and it was ten years so far.

And High Tech was making news this day – A report that Bell Laboratories was working on a voice recognition program that could make computers “hear and understand”. It was a research project that began some ten years earlier when the lab developed a program where the computer could understand three or four words, as long as they were spoken by the same person in the same way each time. To get to the next level, they had to get the computer to understand fifty voices speaking the same word and then to take all the common denominators of those sounds. Each stage of the process had taken years. Finally, Bell Labs produced a computer that could understand 100 words and figure out a sentence or two, but only on a single subject. Skeptics were convinced voice recognition would never happen on any general use basis.

And that’s just a little of what was happening, this July 13th in 1983 as presented by CBS Radio news.

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