Communication – Fifty years on

identifier: 2014043 COMMUNICATION CHERRY

I have a real problem when two conversations are going on at once (due to tinnitus). After a short while, I see the lips of the person I’m trying to listen to moving, but the meaning isn’t being absorbed. The study of the extraordinary capacity of (undamaged) humans to filter the relevant audio, known as the ‘Cocktail party problem’ (or in my case, the ‘Noisy pub problem’) – a task that machines find much more difficult – was a specialism of Professor [Edward] Colin Cherry (1914-1979). During the Second World War, Cherry worked on radar research, and in 1952 took sabbatical leave from Imperial College spending six months in the United States at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he worked with Jerry Weisner and Norbert Weiner and others interested in communication.

Cherry’s most influential books include On Human Communication (1957) and World Communication: Threat or Promise (1971). In 1978 he was awarded the Marconi International Fellowship. He decided to use this to write a book, provisionally entitled A Second Industrial Revolution? He completed only three chapters and the Preface before his death. One of his former students, William E. Edmondson, collected his material and completed it, publishing it as The Age of Access: Information Technology and Social Revolution. [adapted from]


Communication. An introduction to Information Technology by Professor Colin Cherry. British Broadcasting Corporation, 1964. 24 pages plus paper cover. Size: 210 x 134mm.

“Unlike machine learning, deep learning is mostly unsupervised. It involves, for example, creating large-scale neural nets that allow the computer to learn and “think” by itself without the need for direct human intervention.” Luke Dormehl, 2014.

“…information handling machines are being evolved along principles closely simulating certain actions of the nervous system, of such complexity and novelty of behaviour that the term ‘machine’ seems scarcely suitable. There seems no conceivable limit to their possible development.” Colin Cherry, 1964


In 1964 Cherry gave a series of lectures about Communication, on BBC Television. This is the accompanying booklet which, appropriately, is carefully designed to communicate clearly the subjects under discussion. The text is prescient one moment, the next – hopelessly outdated by subsequent events. On the inside cover the Professor is seen in London, talking to a conference in Boston via Telstar satellite. Very cutting edge – though the design of the telephone (which seems to belong to an earlier period, but was of course still standard in the ‘60s) rather lets the side down.

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I wonder whether the programmes survive? As Google Brain battles with Microsoft’s Adam, this booklet provides a very useful precis to the thinking of those communicators who were at the front end of communication theory and research in the early 1960s. No copies on Amazon, as I write.



Condition; Good.

Price: £10.00 plus postage.

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comms5[click to read]


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