Before there was FRED, there was DOC and Artie, but we won't go there now.
FRED (Functional Response Emulation Devices) began as an attempt to make natural language help systems for giving advice to troubled computer users. The idea was to make a pragmatic software from a functionalist's point of view. FRED for DataFlex was first released in 1994 as a somewhat informative chatterbot and it got third place in the loebner contest that same year. Since then FRED has branched off into the entertainment industry. :)
In the summer of 1995, a version was written for the world wide web and was called Agent Max Headcold. Max was basically the same program as used in the contest, but had no persistent memory of the conversation. The same input phrase would always produce the same output phrase.
The conversation with Max was limited, but the main purpose of Max was to observe the kinds of things people say to an on-line bot. Max kept a log of phrases that people had said to him and these could be used to generate new replies as well. It turns out that a lot of what actually gets through to the bot is garbage. People like to insult it, curse at it, and generally toy with its behaviour. Of the 60,000 or so phrases that Max reported to us, only about 8,000 were worthy of keeping as example replies. These examples would be given a default reply by one of us for Max to refer to. By the time we dismantled Max, we had constructed an example phrase library of 18,000 replies.
In May 1996 Robby Garner completed a program called Milton which took the example paradigm a step further. It used a key based on the word frequencies in the input phrase to find relavant replies (hopefully) This method doesnt always give a perfect result but does serve as a kind of "fuzzy" finding method for getting prospective replies.
In early 1997 Robby helped Paco Nathan put a new droid on the web called Barry DeFacto. Barry 1.0 was a hybrid of sorts written in C++ and Perl. Barry is the customer relations bot for FringeWare Inc. and was totally rewritten in Java during the summer. The java version went on to perform in The Forbin Project, and the BBC MegaLab public Turing test in 1998. It got a 17% Turing percentage.
FRED23 was also written in summer 1997 as a stand-alone C++ application. FRED23 was released as shareware. Albert 0.9 was released as freeware that same year.
Albert One won the 1998 and 1999 Loebner Prize Contest and proved that persistence pays off.
A bit later, on December 7th, 1999, Robby Garner met with R. Neil Bishop at the seafood restaurant at Epcot Center, Orlando Florida, to begin building a solid technological foundation for creating artificial "human" personalities.
In early 2002, the latest version of Albert was introduced to the internet. The original Albert was a single-user confederacy of programs running in DOS. The new Albert has a much more sophisticated response algorithm, and Robby and the Institute of Mimetic Sciences are now building a knowledge base for the new software. It is expected to be a work in progress for the indeterminate future.