MegaHAL was and made its debut in the 1998 Loebner Prize Contest. Like many chatterbots, the intent is for MegaHAL to appear as a human fluent in a natural language. As a user types sentences into MegaHAL, MegaHAL will respond with sentences that are sometimes coherent and at other times complete gibberish. MegaHAL learns as the conversation progresses, remembering new words and sentence structures. It will even learn new ways to substitute words or phrases for other words or phrases. Many would consider conversation simulators like MegaHAL to be a primitive form of artificial intelligence. However, MegaHAL doesn’t understand the conversation or even the sentence structure. It generates its conversation based on sequential and mathematical relationships.
In the world of conversation simulators, MegaHAL is based on relatively old technology and could be considered primitive. However, its popularity has grown due to its humorous nature; it has been known to respond with twisted or nonsensical statements that are often amusing.
In 1996, Jason Hutchens entered the Loebner Prize Contest with HeX, a chatterbot based on ELIZA. HeX won the competition that year and took the $2000 prize for having the highest overall score. In 1998, Hutchens again entered the Loebner Prize Contest with his new program, MegaHAL.