But the game only lasts until a player navigates to the front door of the mansion—less than a minute of play.Decades go by, and I prove better suited to journalism than programming.Eliza astounds me with responses that seem genuinely perceptive (“Why do you feel sad?”) and entertains me with replies that obviously aren’t (“Do you enjoy feeling sad? Behind that glowing green screen, a fledgling being is alive. A few years later, after taking some classes in Basic, I try my hand at crafting my own conversationally capable computer program, which I ambitiously call , which allow players to control an unfolding narrative with short typed commands, my creation balloons to hundreds of lines and actually works.But by the time I put that tome on the shelf, my ambitions have already moved beyond it. I think I have found a better way to keep my father alive.It’s 1982, and I’m 11 years old, sitting at a Commodore PET computer terminal in the atrium of a science museum near my house. The computer is set up to run a program called Eliza—an early chatbot created by MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum in the mid-1960s.
At one point the company’s CEO, Oren Jacob, a former chief technology officer at Pixar, tells me that Pull String’s ambitions are not limited to entertainment.It’s the same room where, decades ago, he calmly forgave me after I confessed that I’d driven the family station wagon through a garage door.Now it’s May 2016, he is 80 years old, and I am holding a digital audio recorder.As my audio recorder runs, he describes how he used to explore caves when he was growing up; how he took a job during college loading ice blocks into railroad boxcars.How he fell in love with my mother, became a sports announcer, a singer, and a successful lawyer.