Code recreates Pfizer's 1956 effort to procedurally generate drug names

Procedural generation isn't just for video game landscapes and galaxies. The technique for creating vast amounts of realistic but uncannily superficial content goes back a long way. Pfizer used it to generate drug names in 1956, feeding code to an IBM mainframe and getting potential products in return.

James Ryan (@xfoml) posted excerpts from news article from the time (above), and it's fascinating to read how it's described for a mid-1950s lay audience to whom computers and their ways were utterly alien.

Based on the newspaper's description, Hugo (@hugovk) reimplemented the 60-year-old generator, and now you too can generate thousands of realistic but uncannily superficial drug names.

Some picks:

NEW DRUG NAMES

scudyl
whirringom
reenef
entreeic
suffuseeta
duplexune
nickelan
raunchyata
handbillal
gammonasa
pluckerel
slawax

...
IMPROPER FOR A FAMILY MEDICINE CHEST

loraliva
crumpledol
moralura
burnishite
smuttyevo
sucklingify
hagfishat
cockpited
moralux
ballcockose
shittyule
cocklesex

From the full output list I like "coughedore" -- like a stevedore, but for unloading mucus.

I wonder how long it took Pfizer to realize that procgen is useless.

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