Jennifer A DeCamp


Thoughts on the History of Machine Translation in the United States
Jennifer A DeCamp
Proceedings of the 15th Biennial Conference of the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (Volume 2: Users and Providers Track and Government Track)

The history of machine translation (MT) covers intricate patterns of technical, policy, social, and artistic threads, many of which have been documented by researchers such as John Hutchins and Dr. Harold Somers. However, the history of MT—including the history of MT in the United States—has stories that not yet been told or that have only received the briefest of nods to the extraordinary work achieved. This presentation would address some of those stories, including: the U.S. government organizations that created research programs such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) and how the values of those founding organizations impacted the development of MT. It would address the almost unknown or nearly forgotten work of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the Xerox Rochester Translation Center, and Systran in the late 1980s and early 1990s to develop automated post-editing tools, confidence measures, and multi-engine solutions. It would discuss and illustrate the astounding impact of MT in movies and literature since the 1950s that still shapes public perception of the technology as more than ready to conduct the complex, nuanced, and multilanguage business of individuals, empires, and alliances. In addition, this presentation would raise questions and promote discussion of how we as a community can continue to capture our colorful and fast-developing history. The stories and observations are drawn from research by the speaker to develop an article on “The History of Machine Translation in the United States,” which will be published later this year in The Routledge Encyclopedia of Machine Translation.