Bulletin Board Systems
Those BBS Days

Featuring Claude Shannon
Claude Shannon

Outside of his academic pursuits, Shannon was interested in juggling, unicycling, and chess. He also invented many devices, including a Roman numeral computer called THROBAC, juggling machines, and a flame-throwing trumpet. One of his more humorous devices was a box kept on his desk called the "Ultimate Machine", based on an idea by Marvin Minsky. Otherwise featureless, the box possessed a single switch on its side. When the switch was flipped, the lid of the box opened and a mechanical hand reached out, flipped off the switch, then retracted back inside the box. Renewed interest in the "Ultimate Machine" has emerged on YouTube and Thingiverse. In addition, he built a device that could solve the Rubik's Cube puzzle.

Shannon designed the Minivac 601, a digital computer trainer to teach business people about how computers functioned. It was sold by the Scientific Development Corp starting in 1961.

He is also considered the co-inventor of the first wearable computer along with Edward O. Thorp. The device was used to improve the odds when playing roulette.

Personal life
Shannon met his wife Betty Shannon when she was a numerical analyst at Bell Labs. They were married in 1949.

Shannon had three children, Robert James Shannon, Andrew Moore Shannon, and Margarita Shannon, and raised his family in Winchester, Massachusetts. His oldest son, Robert Shannon, died in 1998 at the age of 45.

To commemorate Shannon's achievements, there were celebrations of his work in 2001.

There are currently six statues of Shannon sculpted by Eugene Daub: one at the University of Michigan; one at MIT in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems; one in Gaylord, Michigan; one at the University of California, San Diego; one at Bell Labs; and another at AT&T Shannon Labs. After the breakup of the Bell System, the part of Bell Labs that remained with AT&T Corporation was named Shannon Labs in his honor.

According to Neil Sloane, an AT&T Fellow who co-edited Shannon's large collection of papers in 1993, the perspective introduced by Shannon's communication theory (now called information theory) is the foundation of the digital revolution, and every device containing a microprocessor or microcontroller is a conceptual descendant of Shannon's publication in 1948: "He's one of the great men of the century. Without him, none of the things we know today would exist. The whole digital revolution started with him." The unit shannon is named after Claude Shannon.

On March 9, 1949, Claude Shannon, a research worker at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, presented a paper called “Programming a Digital Computer for Playing Chess.” The paper was presented at the National Institute for Radio Engineers Convention in New York. He described how to program a computer to play chess based on position scoring and move selection. He proposed basic strategies for restricting the number of possibilities to be considered in a game of chess. In March 1950, published in Philosophical Magazine, Series 7, Vol. 41 (No. 314, March 1950). This was the first article on computer chess. His process for having the computer decide on which move to make was a minimax procedure, based on an evaluation function of a given chess position. Shannon gave a rough example of an evaluation function in which the value of the black position was subtracted from that of the white position. Material was counted according to the usual chess piece relative value (1 point for a pawn, 3 points for a knight or bishop, 5 points for a rook, and 9 points for a queen). He considered some positional factors, subtracting ½ point for each doubled pawn, backward pawn, and isolated pawn. Another positional factor in the evaluation function was mobility, adding 0.1 point for each legal move available. Finally, he considered checkmate to be the capture of the king, and gave the king the artificial value of 200 points. Quoting from the paper:

The coefficients .5 and .1 are merely the writer's rough estimate. Furthermore, there are many other terms that should be included. The formula is given only for illustrative purposes. Checkmate has been artificially included here by giving the king the large value 200 (anything greater than the maximum of all other terms would do).
The evaluation function was clearly for illustrative purposes, as Shannon stated. For example, according to the function, pawns that are doubled as well as isolated would have no value at all, which is clearly unrealistic.

The Internet wasn’t just designed by one person or one team at one time. As more and more people peeled back the frontiers of information technology, they contributed to the understanding and development of what we all now take for granted. The Internet is here to stay, but there were times when it was a fragile thing that only a few people could envision. The following people are visionaries, inventors, researchers and programmers who, in the early days of the internet, dreamed big and pioneered the technologies and programs behind all the standard Internet operating tools of today.