From the roots, "lexi" meaning word (as in "lexicon") and "phage" meaning eater (as in "bacteriophage"), "lexiphage" means word eater as demonstrated in the GIF animation above.



The original Lexiphage was written by John Doty back around 1972 and ran on one of those HP desktop computer-oid things they had back then which had a one line bright red LED alphabetic display. The mouth was originally an alternating equal sign (=) and less than sign (<). I had a slightly confused account of its invention on this page, but recently (6 May 2001) received a note from John Doty himself giving a more complete and presumably correct account of this innovation:

"Actually I didn't work on SAS-C until 1975, but lexiphage was a couple of years earlier, possibly late in 1972. I was working on infrared and x-ray astronomy from balloons at the time.I wrote LEXIPHAGE at the National Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas.

"Stan Ryckman was the the main user of the HP calculator. While one could save its state on magnetic cards, the procedure was time consuming (and not perfectly reliable), so Stan wrote a little function he would invoke when he needed to leave the calculator in mid session, just to warn us not to mess up his work.

"Stan's function rotated "DO NOT DISTURB!" through the display, Times Square style. This alerted the rest of us to the possibility of animations in the little one-line display. Someone (Mike Shao, I think) started playing with a rolling stick theme using "-\|/-\|/-". As I recall, one variant of this crushed the "DO NOT DISTURB!" string, which gave me the idea for LEXIPHAGE. The word "LEXIPHAGE" rotated into the display, the phage itself then entered and chomped it, but the best part was the "< **BURP**" afterward, dissipating into sparse asterisks and then blanks!"

The program was reimplemented on the MIT-AI PDP-10 for the Knight display system, an early bitmap graphics terminal system developed by Tom Knight in the mid-1970s. In typical baroque ITS (incompatible time sharing system) fashion, it would accept a word to eat as a command line argument and used an old English font to display it.

The version above is more modern version, and was implemented as a GIF file using Adobe Illustrator and GIF Builder. Who says there is no progress in computing.

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