I must begin by admitting, as is scarcely necessary, that I am at least several months away from being able to feed a new piece of French text into a computer and have an English translation come out at the other end. In trying out my basic idea, with verbally expressed rules on filing cards, I found it was possible to arrive in about 110 hours of work at a system that would translate 220 consecutive sentences from a French chemical journal into passable English. It was so encouraging to me that it seemed reasonable to try to mechanize the system immediately and use a computer to speed up further research on the linguistic side of the problem, rather than to perfect the linguistic system by hand, so to speak, and then mechanize it. The score still remains at 220 sentences. The computer programming needed to handle the essentially linguistic part of the system has been completed, and it is now in operation on ILLIAC. It does not look French words up in a mechanical dictionary. This seems to me to be an operation whose mechanization can legitimately be left until later. At any rate, I have to convert a French sentence by hand into a series of what would be the entries for the words in my mechanical dictionary. At the other end of the process, the computer produces a translation consisting of numbers that have to be looked up in a one-for-one table of English words.
Although the programming has taken so long, my expectation is that the system can be expanded and corrected indefinitely with hardly any more programming. By the end of the summer, I hope to have coded the dictionary material needed for the system to handle those 220 sentences, after which it ought to be possible to develop the system and the dictionary quite rapidly into something that will translate most French chemical literature with, say, 90 per cent effectiveness.