Edward Fredkin

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Edward Fredkin [1]

Edward (Ed) Fredkin, (born 1934)
an American physicist, computer scientist, pioneer of digital physics and advocate of digital philosophy. He was full professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from 1971 to 1974 Director of Project MAC and more recently a Distinguished Career Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, at Boston University and a Visiting Professor at MIT.

Fredkin has been broadly interested in computation, hardware as well as software. In the early 1960s, he wrote the first PDP-1 assembler at BBN. He is inventor of the trie data structure [2], the Fredkin gate and the Billiard-Ball Computer Model for reversible computing. His primary contributions include his work on reversible computing and cellular automaton. While Konrad Zuse's book, Calculating Space, mentioned the importance of reversible computation, the Fredkin gate represented the essential breakthrough [3]. He has further been involved in computer vision, artificial intelligence research, and computer chess. Ed Fredkin instrumented the original conception and hardware design of the Chess-orientated Processing System CHEOPS, which was used by Baisley's Tech 2 and a brute force version of Greenblatt's Mac Hack at the end of the 70s [4].


Fredkin working on pdp1.jpg

Ed Fredkin working on PDP-1 (1960 ca.) [5]


Claude Shannon, John McCarthy, Ed Fredkin and Joseph Weizenbaum (1966) [6]

The Fredkin Prize

In 1980, Carnegie Mellon University has announced the establishment of a $100,000 prize for the first computer program to become World Chess Champion and the beginning of annual computer versus human competition. The prize called Fredkin Prize, has been established by the Fredkin Foundation of Cambridge, Massachusetts [7], to encourage continued research progress in computer chess. The prize was three-tiered [8]:

  1. The first award of $5,000 was given to Ken Thompson and Joe Condon from Bell Laboratories, who in 1981 developed the first chess machine to achieve master status.
  2. Seven years later, the intermediate prize of $10,000 for the first chess machine to reach international master status was awarded in 1989 to five Carnegie Mellon graduate students who built Deep Thought, the precursor to Deep Blue, at the university.
  3. The $100,000 third tier of the prize was awarded at AAAI-97 to this IBM team, who built the first computer chess machine that beat a world chess champion.

Teams honored at AAAI-97



“There has never been any doubt in my mind that a computer would ultimately beat a reigning world chess champion,” said Fredkin. “The question has always been when.”

Selected Publications

[11] [12]

1960 ...

1980 ...

2000 ...

External Links


  1. Capture from the PDP-1 Celebration Event Lecture 2006 @18:02, The Computer History Museum
  2. Edward Fredkin (1960). Trie Memory. Communications of the ACM, Vol. 3, No. 9
  3. Edward Fredkin from Wikipedia
  4. John Moussouris, Jack Holloway, Richard Greenblatt (1979). CHEOPS: A Chess-orientated Processing System. Machine Intelligence 9, reprinted (1988) in Computer Chess Compendium
  5. Ed Fredkin working on PDP-1 (1960 ca.), from The Computer History Museum
  6. Weizenbaum. Rebel at Work. A documentary by Peter Haas and Silvia Holzinger
  7. Ben Mittman (1980). $100,000 Prize Established. ICCA Newsletter, Vol. 3, No. 1
  8. Carol McKenna Hamilton, Sara Hedberg (1997). Modern Masters of an Ancient Game. AI Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 4, pdf
  9. Sara Hedberg (1997). AAAI-97 Highlights - Developments in the AI Field. AI Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 4, pdf
  10. Hans Berliner (1989). Deep Thought Wins Fredkin Intermediate Prize. AI Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 2, pdf
  11. Digital Philosophy - Documents
  12. dblp: Edward Fredkin

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